Police are urging parents to check the privacy settings on popular video app TikTok, after concerns sexual predators are using the video platform to target children.
The warnings come after children as young as eight have been targeted by predators in the comments function of live videos, encouraging kids to engage in sexual activity online.
'Privacy and safety'
TikTok is currently one of the most popular social media platforms among young children and teenagers, with more than 500 million active users per month.
Used to create and watch short video clips, the app overtook both Snapchat and Twitter last year. Users are able to connect with others on the app by streaming live videos, or by creating short clips of themselves lip-syncing to music or acting out sketches.
However, with half of the app's users aged between 13 and 24, there are concerns that youngsters are increasingly at risk of being sexually exploited.
Following a warning from children's charity Barnardo's, Surrey Police issued an alert for parents on their Facebook page urging them to check the privacy and safety settings if their child uses the app.
The post reads: "It [the app] can be great fun but you also need to be careful.
"Barnardo's has reported seeing children as young as eight using their services after being encouraged to engage in sexual activity online, with TikTok being one of the apps used to target children.
"To check and change privacy settings on TikTok, tap the three dots in the top right hand corner on your profile page and select 'Privacy and Safety'.
"Share this with other parents and spread the word!"
Changing the privacy settings
The TikTok app features both a public and a private feature, with the public setting used as the default, allowing any other user on the site to view your videos.
Changing the setting to private will then only permit the creator to see their own video clips. Users can still determine who is able to duet with them, contact them, or see their messages.
And, similar to other social media apps, users also have the ability to block people in the settings tab.
In the Privacy and Safety setting, users can change the following options:
- Allow others to find me
- Private Account
- Who can see my comments
- Who can duet with me
- Who can send me messages
- My Block list
Commenting on the growing concerns over safety for youngsters online, Barnardo's chief executive Javed Khan said, "Without the right security settings, children broadcasting live videos of themselves over the internet could be targeted by abusers in their bedrooms.
"It's vital that parent get to know and understand the technology their children are using and make sure they have appropriate security settings in place.
"They should also talk to their children about sex and relationships, and the possible risks and dangers online so children feel able to confide in them if something doesn't feel right.
"We are also calling for a legal duty on technology companies to prevent children being harmed online."