I had so much hesitancy about getting TikTok, yet it always intrigued me and I enjoyed watching them. When we were assigned to experiment with a social media platform that is somewhat, “uncharted territory” for us, TikTok seemed like a pretty solid option. In addition to my budding curiosity, TikTok has had multiple mentions in regard to its ability to entertain and educate.
These conversations have popped up in class discussions, Twitter, and our blogs. As a matter of fact, Curtis had commented on one of my previous blog posts about the educational opportunities TikTok has presented, especially during the pandemic. This prompted me to do a little reading on the subject. After taking a peek at some articles, I found one that resonated with me and posted it to my Twitter. After all of this conversation, it got the better of me and I caved. Folks, I’ve become (a very novice level) TikTok user.
To fully experience TikTok, I felt I needed to download the app, fall into the time waste trap everyone warned me about, swipe for endless entertainment, and then actually create some content. I wanted to experiment with trends and “original content” to see which of my videos got the most likes and/or views. When I was downloading the app I thought it was interesting that there is a prompt that asks you to choose what kind of content you would like to see. They offered a number of options and a lot of them appealed to me, so clickity click I went! Once my account was set up, I went to the Discover page and searched, “Cats of TikTok.” Wow. I was in heaven– endless entertainment of cats doing weird things. I honestly could have sat on my couch forever, just swiping away! The next day, I recruited my fiancé to help me capture some content of our feline fur baby, Salsa. I had felt like I watched enough cat content to make Salsa the next TikTok sensation and I went into full, “momager” mode (move over Kris Jenner). It was surprisingly difficult! I decided to start with a simple TikTok trend called, #kissyourpetshead. When working with animals, we learned that it is difficult to make them do things. We needed to wait for opportunity to strike. After multiple fails, we decided on another idea… If you own a cat, you need to try this with them! During the pandemic lockdown, my fiancé and I were on the constant pursuit for entertainment. We discovered something called, “Cat TV.” Basically, you just put on a video of squirrels running about and birds chirping, which in turn, provides endless hours of entertainment for a very bored self, fiancé, and cat. Salsa would sit at the computer and watch the birds and try batting them away. I think she was confused as to why she couldn’t capture them, which made it more entertaining! I sound like a crazy cat lady… and it’s because I am. Below is 8 hours of entertainment for the whole family… You’re welcome.
Once Salsa nestled into her spot on the stairs for the night, we turned on her Cat TV. It didn’t take long before she was on the kitchen table, fully engaged in her favourite feline show. This is how Salsa made her debut into stardom via TikTok:
Oh my goodness. Not only did we find it hilarious (I’m sorry, if you’re at this point in my post and don’t feel the same), but then we could also edit it! This presented a whole other facet of entertainment. We tried out all kinds of filters, techno music, you name it! Next, it was time to upload. Over the course of 24 hours, Salsa’s brilliance has gained 7 likes and 457 views. Stardom, here we come!
Since I was satisfied with how our first TikTok went, I wasn’t planning on making another. THEN, on Friday evening, Salsa was sitting on her cat tower. Opportunity had struck. It was time to give her a little smooch and examine her reaction. I got my fiancé to film me giving her a kiss and I got shot down. Hard. I think this was her way of telling me she’s had enough. FYI: We only have 16 views on this one.
Overall, TikTok was very user friendly and we didn’t need to do much research into how it works in terms of editing and uploading content. However, something that I found overwhelming was the sheer volume of content. When I say endless, it truly is.
I was reluctant to get TikTok at first, but I would be lying if I said that my fiancé and I didn’t have fun filming our cat and editing videos of her. Although, I don’t think Salsa felt the same. If anything she will probably be taking a step out of the lime light for a while, but not until she helps me finish writing this blog post.
Pros, Cons, & “Must Know” Info.
I’ve probably mentioned Common Sense Media a thousand times because I love their reviews on various social media platforms. I find their reviews are brief, cover the information people are most concerned about, and their information is framed in a way that makes sense to people who aren’t well-versed in social media lingo. Common Sense Media provides a very thorough review of TikTok, so I will speak to the pieces that stood out to me the most…
The safety piece was one of my biggest question marks, as I know lots of kids have TikTok. Common Sense Media highlights with any social media platform, there are always risks involved. However, it appears that TikTok has different rules depending on the age of the user. These rules include:
- Users under 13 years of age cannot post or comment on videos and the videos they are exposed to are curated for a younger age.
- Users 13-15 years of age accounts are private by default.
- Users 16 and over can livestream and use direct messaging.
- Users 18 and over can buy, send, and receive virtual gifts.
When I made my account, I don’t recall being asked about my age. It’s possible I missed something, as I am not an expert by any means. I guess I’m wondering how can TikTok monitor the ages of people using their platform and have these safety settings in place? I know kids who are under 13 years of age who create and post content, so I’m guessing that the, “work around” for this safety feature is quite simple. However, Common Sense Media also highlights that parents can enable certain settings such as Restricted Mode, Family Safety Mode, and limit the amount of time their child spends on the app. I also conducted a small survey with my students (more on that to come) and they explained that their parents also have created TikTok accounts and follow them in order to monitor their activity.
Common Sense Media explains that these are basically trends or ideas that go viral and are copied by users of the app. I always thought they were more spontaneous creations or developed by creative TikTok users, but they are often planned by brands for marketing purposes. Some of these challenges are in good fun and seemingly harmless. They can even raise awareness about various causes. However, some can be dangerous such as The Skull Breaker Challenge, which we talked about in last week’s class. Common Sense Media shared an article outlining various challenges and the dangers associated with them. I don’t believe that all challenges are bad, but as parents and teachers it is imperative to have discussions with kids about these challenges and encourage them to be critical thinkers about the implications of them:
- Is this challenge funny at the expense of someone else’s feelings?
- Can I hurt myself or others doing this challenge?
- What is this challenge supporting? Is it for a good cause?
- Is this challenge disrespectful to others or involve the destruction of property?
This leads me to The Devious Licks Challenge. This article explains the challenge and highlights the value of teaching students about digital citizenship and the permanency of a digital footprint. In addition to these conversations, reading the community guidelines with kids to review expectations when using social media is a tedious task, but understanding the fine print is important.
Privacy and Security
My biggest hesitancy with getting TikTok was around the privacy and security piece. I’ve heard people voice concerns about this, which discouraged me from engaging with the app. However, I have other forms of social media, so I’m kidding myself if I think my information isn’t floating around out there somewhere. Although that may be true, I still think it is important to be aware of the privacy and security regulations about your social media platforms. Common Sense Media notes that some companies and the U.S. government are wary of TikTok being used as tool by China to spy on users of the platform in other countries. In addition to these concerns, they do have a bit of a shady record when it comes to managing their privacy and security…
Terms of Service, Didn’t Read (TOSDR) is a nifty little resource when you’re wanting to read the fine print that I mentioned previously, but don’t want to spend copious amounts of time on the task. According to the TOSDR, the privacy grade they gave TikTok was E. Grade E is not great… Actually, it’s the lowest possible grade you can get on TOSDR (check out their grading list here for more information). The “high flyer” areas noted are that personal messages can be read and TikTok can delete any content without notice or reason. Some of the, “good to go” areas are that personal data isn’t sold, you maintain ownership of data, and TikTok provides information about how your data is used. I think TikTok has a somewhat poor reputation, however, we need to keep in mind that other social media platforms that are commonly used (such as Instagram) were also given the same overall grade as TikTok on TOSDR. When I saw TikTok’s grade initially, I felt a little uneasy. However, after seeing that other social media platforms were in the same boat, it made me feel a little better, but also made me more cognoscente of the apps I use. I know that the above points sound somewhat negative, which isn’t necessarily my intention. My aim is to offer a critical perspective about TikTok to further inform my use of it, seeing as I now have the app.
Impact on Kids & Educational Value
When it comes to TikTok, kids are probably the best possible source of information. I was curious about my students’ use of social media and if any of them use TikTok or engage with the platform in any way. To dive into this a little deeper, I gave the students a survey. I was surprised to find that quite a few of my students did not use social media. Of course, the majority did, but there was a fair amount that did not. Overall, the kids mainly used TikTok, Snap Chat, and YouTube (on my survey I originally forgot to include YouTube, so the kids included it on their own if needed). Some responses from the student survey that I felt were noteworthy are:
- “I don’t use social media. I don’t even have a phone. I would rather read!” (I thought this was cute, so I had to include it!)
- “The coolest feature is the self-editor.” (2 students mentioned this.)
- “I like TikTok for the comedy side, but not the dance side.”
- Most TikTok users in my class create and watch TikToks. The rest mostly only watch on their own accounts or on an older sibling’s.
- “I like YouTube better because it’s like TikTok, but without the hate.” (2 students spoke to TikTok having more cyber bullying and strangers trying to connect with them.)
- “I like TikTok because it makes me known.”
After getting some feedback from my students, I started to think about the impact TikTok can have on kids. I thought comments #5 and #6 were interesting. TikTok is a way for kids to connect with others and feel a sense of belonging, but can also be isolating when cyber bullying starts or the platform becomes dangerous due to strangers with problematic intentions. The responses to these questions highlight the value of teaching kids about genuine relationships that they form, “in real life.” Not that relationships developed through social media are meaningless, but it is also important to share connections and relationships with people in your immediate circle. The self-editor comments caught my attention as well. Of course these features are fun, but I think it can skew what kids think they should look like… Or they see other TikTok users that look flawless, when in reality, it is just a filter or the effects of a ring light. Although this article is in relation to Snap Chat, it also shares connections with TikTok. It doesn’t surprise me that there is a connection between stress, mental health, and social media. I think managing your mental health and social media is all about balance and boundaries. Ridding yourself of all social media isn’t always the answer, but giving yourself a social media break or following accounts that, “spark joy” are helpful bits of advice to keep in mind.
The article I mentioned at the beginning of this post pointed out some interesting ways that TikTok can be used in regard to education. The mention of, “bite-sized” lessons was interesting to me. I find that I can ramble on in the classroom, but TikTok allows teachers to get the basics across in a short amount of time. In addition, by being open with students about engaging with social media platforms they use, it demonstrates a willingness to learn about their world. The most obvious benefit to me in regard to using TikTok is the relevancy of the app and connecting with students. So many kids use it in some capacity, making it more appealing to engage in their education. Kat shared a TikTok created by her school in this Twitter post. I appreciate that the creation of this TikTok brought the staff together with the common goal of enticing students to get their read on with the new books in their library.
Overall, I’m still learning about this app and how to harness its powers in the classroom… and even for my learning project! I’m still no expert, so please share any insights or clarification on the details I mentioned in this post. Out of curiosity…
- Do you have TikTok? If so, how do you use it?
- Do you have other social media platforms and not have TikTok? What are your hesitancies about getting TikTok, if any?
Thanks for making it through this very long post… Again.
Until next time,