Social media sensation TikTok is a magnet for paedophiles and Australian children are not safe, a cyber safety expert has claimed.
In a dire warning to parents, ‘Cyber Cop’ Susan McLean told Daily Mail Australia the popular app was ‘not safe’ for kids due to grooming, bullying and privacy fears.
Users of the app, which is now more popular than Snapchat, only have to be 13 years old to sign up – and can be contacted by anyone unless they make their profile private.
Even then, anyone can request to look at their pictures and videos, and even pretend to be another child.
The Beijing-based company behind TikTok has more than 500 million active users and is now worth more than $110billion, but has sparked security concerns (stock image)
‘TikTok is not a safe app and there are many concerns not the least bullying and grooming by predators,’ Ms McLean, a former Victorian police cyber safety specialist of 27 years, said.
‘Any app that allows communication can be used by predators.’
Worryingly, the cyber safety expert warned TikTok has been known not to remove suspicious accounts even after being warned they could ran by a child groomer.
‘TikTok does not have the same safety sessions as some of the more well known apps and routinely do not remove accounts that have been flagged as potentially a predator,’ she explained.
‘Paedophiles like to watch kids sing and dance so they can take the videos and share them.
‘The data gathering is huge concern and if the government is worried then it is not a place for kids.’
Susan McLean (pictured), one of the country’s foremost experts on cyber safety and security, said TikTok is ‘not safe’
How does TikTok work?
Users post videos of themselves and broadcast them on the app
Anyone can find these videos and post comments on them
It also allows you to message that person privately
Some of the most popular videos are watched more than 10 million times
Each TikTok video is generally 15 to 60 seconds long
The videos are typically set to music, often showing the user dancing, doing a trick, or lip-syncing
Her comments come after an investigation in the UK found children as young as eight were being groomed on TikTok.
It found kids were being bombarded by explicit messages on the app.
According to TikTok, ‘can be safe for teens with proper parental guidance’.
But it admits that since the app can be ‘downloaded worldwide by anyone with a smartphone’ it can be ‘dangerous for younger users’.
‘Anyone who uses the app may come across mature content via the public stream, hashtag searches, or via explicit lyrics,’ the company admitted on its own website.
It explained parents should ensure their child’s profile is set to private if they are concerned, which means that only approved users can see their videos and pictures.
Kids Helpline also revealed there was scope for ‘bullying’ on the app, and said it had received concerning reports from its counsellors.
In Australia and New Zealand, TikTok has around 1.4 million monthly active users, driving 1.6 billion video views every month (stock image)
In one incident, a child discovered a girl at school had posted a TikTok video saying she should ‘die in a hole’.
There are also concerns about privacy and data used by the Chinese-owned company.
‘Both the US and Australian governments have told serving soldiers that they are not to use it because of security fears,’ Ms McLean explained.
‘TikTok also received the biggest fine in US history for gathering data on kids and selling it.
Cyber security expert Susan McLean (pictured) warned parents that TikTok has been known not to remove accounts even after they were flagged as potential groomers
TikTok lets users create and share short singing and dancing videos that are set to well-known songs.
The Beijing-based company behind the app has more than 500 million active users and is now worth more than £58 billion.
Since Instagram took away the option to see how many ‘likes’ a post has, TikTok has become teenager’s favourite app to check their popularity.
TikTok also has a direct message function, as well as live-streaming and public comments.
A spokesperson for TikTok said: ‘TikTok is an app for users age 13 and over, and we’ve given the app a 12+ App Store rating so parents can simply block it from their child’s phone using device-based controls.
‘In our Safety Centre we offer a library of educational resources for teens and their families, including safety educational videos and a safety blog series.
‘As one of many apps with teenage users, we encourage parents to monitor their teenager’s account, review and adjust their privacy settings, help them report any inappropriate behavior, and have an open dialogue with their teenagers about how to be responsible and safe in all online activity.’
WHAT IS TIK TOK?
Tik Tok is a Chinese social media app where users can live stream, create short videos and music videos and Gifs with a host of functions.
Tik Tok’s tagline is ‘Make every second count’.
It was the most downloaded app in the US in 2018 and the world’s fourth most downloaded app in 2018, ahead of Instagram and Snapchat.
TikTok is known in China as Douyin where it was launched in 2016 and then made more widely available around the world in 2017.
Douyin is still the version of the app used in China, available to download separately to TikTok.
Last year, the app was merged with popular music video lip-syncing app Musical.ly, also with headquarters in China.
Most children use the app to film themselves lip-syncing to chart hits.
It offers users a raft if colourful modification and editing tools including overlaying music, sound, animated stickers, filters and augmented reality (AR) for creating short videos.
The Beijing based social network has more than 500 million active users and the company is now worth more than $75 billion (£58 billion).