As TikTok reaches 1 billion active users around the world becoming one of the most popular social media platforms, many have expressed concern about its impact on younger users.
A new digital movement has emerged in North America in response to these concerns: a group of so-called “watchdog moms” who use their TikTok profiles to educate their followers about online safety for teens.
What they do ranges from raising awareness about the dangers of speaking to strangers online to tips on how to protect your children from seeing hateful or predatory content on the platform.
But it also includes talking about the dangers of parents for example oversharing their children’s identity or personal lives.
Sarah Adams – known as mom.uncharted on TikTok – has gained millions of views on her videos about child safety on social media.
“There are a lot of predatory people on that TikTok that seek out young and vulnerable individuals. The fact that they can easily have access to these kids is very scary,” Sarah Adams explained in an interview with Euronews.
However, Adams believes that TikTok has taken action against her account as well as against the profiles of our concerned mothers.
“Certain videos of mine will be restricted on the platform a few hours after publication. For example, I get a lot of violations for harrassment and bullying but I never name specific users. So I struggle understanding where these violations of the platform rules are coming from,” she said.
“I have definitely felt attacked by the platform,” Adams said.
Like other large tech platforms, TikTok relies on users and algorithmic systems to flag potentially dangerous content, which then gets reviewed by a human moderator to determine whether it should be removed.
But as with other platforms, TikTok is criticised for failing to take action. Last year, a TikTok executive testified before the US Senate about their apps’ impact on the mental health of teens.
The platform says it encourages its community to report content that may violate TikTok’s community guidelines but this movement of watchdog moms says the burden has fallen on them.
In a previous statement, TikTok told Euronews that “keeping people on TikTok safe is our top priority … we’re continuing to invest in the people, processes and technologies that help to keep our community a safe space for positive, creative expression.”
For parents who are worried about their children’s presence on the platform, Adams shares a piece of advice.
“Parents should educate themselves, learn how the platform works, and what your children are seeing. So you should download the app yourself so you’re aware how your children are using the platform.”