A parent’s worst nightmare: Adult poses as a 13-year-old girl on sharing app TikTok and receives replies from men within MINUTES – but supporters say users just need ‘thick skin’
- TikTok has spent two years climbing towards major competitors like Snapchat
- Cyber security experts have become wary following the apps quick success
- An investigation has revealed predators message teenagers on the app
- One journalist found 100 explicit messages which he reported to TikTok’s admin
- The Rybka twins, who have six-million followers, said thick skin is needed for app
An adult posed as a teenage girl on TikTok and received replies within minutes – amid fears predators are lurking on the up-and-coming social media app.
TikTok, a short-form video app with 500 million users, launched in 2017 and has spent the past two years climbing towards major competitors Snapchat and Instagram.
The quick success of the app has left some parents concerned about its safety, with cyber experts warning it is being used by predators.
BBC journalist Marco Silva investigated TikTok over a three-month period in the UK.
In one instance, Mr Silva told A Current Affair a teenager was offered free flights to Turkey to spend a few days with the stranger.
Pictured: The Rybka twins from Perth who have more than six-million followers on up-and-coming social media app TikTok
Following concerns about the safety of the app, A Current Affair staged their own fake profile, pretending to be a 13-year-old girl
Other adult users offered money and urged teenage girls to take off their tops, Mr Silva found.
‘While the majority of the comments were indeed taken down after they were reported, only a handful … of the accounts that were posting those comments were suspended from TikTok,’ Mr Silva said.
Following concerns about the safety of the app, A Current Affair staged their own fake profile, pretending to be a 13-year-old girl.
Within minutes they received messages from a 40-year-old man who wrote ‘your (sic) very beautiful I wish there was more pics than just one’.
Teagan and Sam, known as the Rybka twins, have more than six million followers on the app.
The sisters from Perth, who often share videos of their dancing and acrobatic talents, said it was ‘crazy’ how quickly they shot up to six-million followers from one-million.
Despite the growing fame, they admitted their success was not without trolls willing to pull them down.
‘But that’s just what comes with it and you’ve got to have thick skin, and you just delete or block, you can do that on TikTok, which is great.’
E-Safety Commissioner Julie Inman-Grant said parents should be aware of the traps on any social media apps which have chat functions.
Despite the growing fame, the Rybka twins admitted their success was not without trolls willing to pull them down. ‘But that’s just what comes with it and you’ve got to have thick skin, and you just delete or block, you can do that on TikTok, which is great.’
Cyber expert Leonie Smith gave four points of advice for parents of children using the app
‘You need to be mindful that an adult with an interest in a child where the children are, is going to go to the sites and try and groom them,’ she said.
Cyber expert Leonie Smith gave four points of advice for parents of children using the app.
Ms Smith urged the importance of activating TikTok parenting controls, setting a child’s account to private, monitoring the comments on their posts and ensuring videos don’t identify locations or schools.
‘Safety is our priority’: TikTok’s statement in full
In 2018, TikTok was one of the most downloaded apps globally. Since launching in Australia, TikTok has received an overwhelming response from users looking to join a community of like-minded creators on a platform where they can safely express themselves in a creative, fun, and positive way.
Promoting a safe and positive app experience is our top priority. TikTok is an app for users age 13 and over and there are age-gating measures at signup. TikTok has a 12+ App Store rating, which enables parents to simply block it from their child’s phone, using device-based parental controls.
TikTok offers users a number of controls and privacy settings, and deploys a combination of policies, technology, and moderation strategies to address inappropriate content or accounts.
Through the TikTok in-app Safety Centre, we offer a library of educational resources for users and their families, such as a safety blog series where we provide tips on online safety, bullying, and other resources.
TikTok also includes resources for parents so that they can take an active role in their teen’s online experience.
We also encourage parents to have an open dialogue with their children about how to be responsible and safe in all online activities.
As we continue to nurture our growing and diverse global community, TikTok will continue to launch new tools and initiatives to support our positive and safe in-app environment.
Australia is a key market for TikTok and as the business continues to grow, we will explore opportunities to establish a stronger physical local presence.