The rise of TikTok and other videostreaming apps has sparked calls from cyber safety experts for parents to be more aware of the risks of these platforms and to try out the technology themselves.
National cyber safety education provider ySafe’s Jordan Foster says if the apps’ privacy settings aren’t properly scrutinised, strangers can download videos of children to their own personal devices.
“Children as young as six are taking videos in their bathrooms in crop tops and bikinis, not realising that people are watching these videos through a sexualised lens,” Ms Foster, ySafe’s managing director and a clinical psychologist, said.
TikTok, a social network for sharing user-generated music videos, has many school officials worried as students are posting videos in their school uniforms. Likee and Bigo Live are other examples of video apps growing in popularity among young people.
“TikTok is wildly popular (with) children but has a notorious reputation of being a hunting ground for online predators,” Ms Foster said.
“This app is rife with dangers and kids are completely exposed if parents aren’t involved … kids often post videos in their school uniform, or talk with strangers via private messages.”
Labor MP Jayne Stinson, too, has issued a warning about the app, writing to SA private and public schools about parent concerns over videos on TikTok showing “sexual behaviour or simulation, crude language including sexist, racist and vulgar song lyrics, offensive graphics (and) simulated violence”.
Ms Stinson has provided about 30 examples posted by students from eight schools, including Cabra, Immanuel and Xavier colleges, and said parents had sent her many more.
The Sunday Mail has seen correspondence from other schools, advising parents that students are banned from posting to TikTok in their school uniforms or while on the school grounds.
Multimedia messaging app Snapchat is another established teenage favourite but increasingly anonymous messaging app Tellonym is also being used.
“This app allows users to send anonymous comments to each other, often resulting in sexual conversations or more commonly, severe cyber bullying,” Ms Foster said.
Ms Foster says the best thing parents can do is try for themselves the apps their kids are using and talking about.
“Sign up for an account, have a scroll through and see what other people are posting – you’ll get a feel for the type of content and communications that are posted there,” she said. “Although it’s a difficult task, we as a parent community need to try and stay on top of what apps kids are using, as the risks and consequences can be catastrophic.
“Many parents say to me, ‘my kid is a good kid’ (but) what they don’t consider is, their child may not be the problem.