Pacific Grove Middle School
November 2019 Newsletter
Social Media Awareness- TikTok
By Sean Roach, Principal
If you’re a parent of a tween like I am, TikTok is likely part of your family’s life, whether your child is spending hours on the app, or spending hours begging you for permission to download it.
For those who didn’t know (like myself), TikTok is a social media app you can use to create videos, usually by lip-synching or dancing along with top songs. You can share the videos you create with friends, or with a wider circle of TikTok users. Thus far, as I have monitored by own kids and their friends and this appears to be an innocuous and engaging app in which users choreograph dances to share with their friends. The laughing and physical exertion of these videos is really wonderful to see, but as a school administrator, I tend to look at other ways social media can be used. Below is an excerpt from an article which highlights ways parents can learn about and monitor with whom these videos are shared, enjoy!
TikTok can be a creative, social outlet Kids like to get together with friends to make TikTok videos. “TikTok can be really fun. Some videos are lighthearted and cute, and can be a source of creativity for kids,” says Christine Elgersma, senior editor of parent education at Common Sense Media.
Vivian Manning-Schaffel of New York City has a 12-year-old daughter she says is “obsessed” with TikTok. “She loves to edit videos and lip sync, and this app allows her to do what she enjoys. She can create funny, humorous scenarios and express herself with song,” she says.
And TikTok’s editing features make it easy for kids to create professional-looking videos. Sareh Baca of Atlanta says TikTok has become a big part of her 11-year-old daughter’s life. “She’s super creative. Her favorite thing to do is create videos with her American Girl dolls. Some of the stuff she’s produced is pretty impressive — it’s a real creative outlet for her.”
As with any app, though, it’s important for parents to monitor what their children can do and share with others. “Whenever there are a huge number of people using a social app, there’s a dark side,” Elgersma says. Here are some of the ways you can help keep your kids safe on TikTok.or inappropriate content. People of all ages use TikTok, and a lot of the videos involve lip-synching or dancing to pop hits. So, your child could come across swearing, scantily clad adults, and suggestive dancing. Elgersma says she’s heard reports of nudity but hasn’t come across any herself. “But I have seen things I would not want my 9-year-old daughter to see,” she says. She has also seen hashtags linked to dangerous behaviors like self-harm and cutting.
TikTok's Digital Wellbeing feature gives parents the option to put limits on screen time and filter out inappropriate content. You can filter out spam, offensive comments, and specific keywords, and block accounts, but Elgersma doesn’t think the filters catch everything. She points out that hashtags change frequently, and creative spelling can help people bypass filters.
For kids under age 13, there’s a version of TikTok where they can create videos but not post them, and they can view only videos deemed appropriate for children. Limit the people who can access your child’s videos. By default, when you open a TikTok account it’s set to “public.” Tricia Cuthbertson of Jersey City, NJ saw firsthand how dangerous that can be. Her 8-year-old daughter was playing with an 11-year-old friend and asked if she could borrow Cuthbertson’s phone. The two girls downloaded TikTok and posted three videos of themselves. “In the matter of an hour, she has 20 followers, all men, and they were starting to make comments,” Cuthbertson says. “I take responsibility, but it takes that little amount of time for things to get out of control.”
Setting your child’s account to “private” can help protect them. With a private account, only people you approve can follow, comment on, and like your videos. And if you do choose to have a public account, you can turn off “Allow others to find me,” and control who can comment, react to your videos, duet with you, send you messages, and view videos you liked.
Most of the settings on TikTok are toggles or quick clicks, so it’s easy for your child to change them, or to switch an account from private to public. “There’s always a way to get around these things. None of the passcodes or parental controls are 100 percent foolproof. Kids are designed to try to get around them. That’s what they do developmentally —they test limits,” Elgersma says.
Manning-Schaffel feels confident that her daughter understands how to use TikTok safely. “She really does understand the ramifications. I think kids that age develop a level of social-media savvy. They understand the capabilities and the dangers, and they realize that whatever they put out there is there forever,” she says. Baca hopes that by teaching her daughter how to navigate TikTok, she’ll be better equipped to manage social media and the broader Internet as she gets older. “We have lots of conversations about accepting friend requests or friending people you don’t know. I go through her friend list, and right now her online social circle is super small,” Baca says. “By the time she’s in middle school and high school, she’ll have gone through these low-risk situations, and they can help her navigate these things a little bit better.”
Even if you don’t allow your child to have social media accounts, it’s important to have conversations about online safety, since your child will have access to friends’ phones and computers. Baca says she knows that some of her daughter’s friends aren’t being monitored very closely. “Sometimes that worries me,” she says.
Relate Monitor screen time Manning-Schaffel’s main concern with the app is how, as with so many apps, it can turn into a time suck. “It’s easy to spend time scrolling through so much content. You have to police it like you would police anything else,” she says.
Baca agrees, and via iPhone limits her daughter’s screen time to 30 minutes a day on school days and an hour a day on weekends. From within the TikTok app, you can limit the screen time from 40 minutes to two hours.
Check it out yourself: TikTok is easy to understand once you get your hands on it. “I always encourage parents to check out the app themselves. That’s often a step we adults overlook. Get in there yourself, poke around, and test it,” Elgersma says. After just 15 or 20 minutes scrolling through videos and learning the settings, you should have a good idea of whether it’s an app you’d feel comfortable letting your child use. It could even become something you do together.
Here is a synopsis of the film:
From the director of SCREENAGERS: Growing Up in the Digital Age comes Screenagers NEXT CHAPTER: Uncovering Skills for Stress Resilience and is about helping young people thrive in our screen and stress-filled world.
Filmmaker and physician Delaney Ruston uses a personal lens and professional eye to help parents flip the script on stress, anxiety, and depression. We follow Delaney as she finds herself at a loss on how to help her own teens as they struggle with their emotional wellbeing. Ruston sets out to understand these challenges in our current screen-filled society, and how we as parents and schools empower teens to overcome mental health challenges and build emotional agility, communication savvy, and stress resilience.
We witness Delaney as she finds her way from ineffective parenting to much-improved strategies. We follow other personal stories of families from an array of backgrounds with a spectrum of emotional challenges. We also observe approaches in schools that provide strategies relevant beyond the classroom setting. Interwoven into the stories are surprising insights from brain researchers, psychologists, and thought-leaders that reveal evidence-based ways to support mental wellness among our youth. The impact of social media and other screen time is incorporated into all the topics raised in Screenagers NEXT CHAPTER and how it may be impacting our teen’s mental health.
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PGMS PTSA Board Members 2019- 2020
President: Amy Fallavena
Secretary: Kari Serpa
Treasurer: Marie Quinton
Fundraising: Michelle Del Pozzo
VP Volunteers: Joey Houde
Parliamentarian: Luciana Morgan
VP Membership/Corresponding Sec: Ali Lyon
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