Our children are part of the digital age. The internet is the most wonderful resource we have ever had. At the click of button we can find out about anything we want. It also is a point of vulnerability for children if they don’t use it safely… We cannot prevent our children living in this modern, technological-driven world, therefore we need to teach our children how to safely navigate their way through it. This needs to start from the minute they’re engaging with technology, in an age appropriate way. At school we talk to the children a lot about staying safe online – this starts from the Early Years & continues right the way through to Year 6.
One of the issues children (particularly our older pupils) have to come to terms with is the use of social media. Whether primary age children are meant to be using these apps is irrelevant – we know they are so we have to help them stay safe. Currently, TikTok is rapidly becoming the bane of our lives at Woodlands - staff are dealing with issues raised by this app on an almost weekly basis.
I am not trying to be some sort of killjoy – social media can be a wonderful addition to our lives but if used inappropriately it can be harmful to your children’s well-being or actually place them in dangerous situations. You should be 13 years old to have a TikTok account but I’m aware that a substantial number of our KS2 children are posting on this app. I’m not naïve enough to believe that by telling them they are too young that they will stop – therefore, I believe it is our job to ensure that our children are using TikTok, or any social media platform, as sensibly & safely as possible.
Over the past few weeks we have had children from Y4 to Y6 use TikTok in an unacceptable manner: writing abusive messages aimed at children in their class; sharing videos that are not appropriate for their age; posting unacceptable content that would land an adult in an awful lot of trouble. There is at least one video that has been posted by a pupil in our school that if I was to post myself I would find myself out of a job the following day.
I am not sure that parents are fully aware of their children’s use of TikTok; I know of one of our children had a ‘secret’ TikTok account. Their parents were monitoring their other ‘official’ account & were none the wiser of the content they were posting on the hidden account. Their official account was private but their secret account was open for anyone to access.
If some of our children are posting inappropriate content this is obviously disappointing, & needs to stop, but this isn’t even my main concern. Some of our children are putting themselves at risk in multiple ways:
Comments about posts can be disgusting. We know some of our pupils have had vile things said to them, & about them, by complete strangers.
A great deal of content on TikTok is not suitable for primary age children. TikTok’s algorithm works in such a way that if you watch a video all the way through to the end (you don’t even have to ‘like’ it) the app will show you more videos of a similar nature, whether it’s a funny video about a dog, a violent argument between adults or a school girl dancing in her uniform.
Please watch the BBC Panorama programme ‘Is TikTok Safe?’ which sets out the very real dangers of children using TikTok. The programme is only 29 minutes long & is available to watch on BBC iPlayer (link below).
Childnet & Net Aware have both produced an excellent guides for parents/carers, they cover how to ensure TikTok accounts are set up a safely as possible:
Ideally, none of your children should be on TikTok. As I stated earlier, I am not naïve enough to think this will happen therefore we need ensure that our children are using TikTok safely. At Woodlands, e-safety is a central pillar of our computing curriculum – we are confident our children are aware of how to stay safe online, unfortunately, too many of them are not putting their knowledge into practice.