TikTok Is Off-Limits for My Kid. Should They Be Able to Watch on a Friend's Phone?

By Jessica Jackson
May 4, 2023

You’re annoyed. As a parent, you've made the decision not to allow your child to have their own social media account on TikTok, only to find out that they've been watching TikTok videos on a friend's phone. It can be frustrating to feel like your child is circumventing the rules you've put in place to protect them. 

But disobedience aside, you might be wondering whether it's okay to let your child look at TikTok when they’re hanging out with friends. Are there benefits to allowing this? What are the downsides?

The Pros and Cons of How Your Child Watches TikTok

TikTok is a social media platform where users can create, share, and discover short videos. Many teenagers are drawn to TikTok for its entertaining content and the opportunity to express themselves creatively. But, like other social media platforms, TikTok has its share of potential dangers and concerns, including exposure to inappropriate content, cyberbullying, privacy issues, and more.

Letting Your Child Have Their Own Account

When your child has their own account on TikTok — or any other social network — the various risks and negative impacts they’re exposed to include:

Increased screen time: If your child has their own account, they're more likely to spend excessive amounts of time on the platform. Excessive screen time can lead to unhealthy  habits, affecting sleep, physical health, mental health, and academic performance.

Inappropriate content: Without parental controls in place, your child may have unrestricted access to content that is not suitable for their age, potentially exposing them to harmful material.

Peer pressure and the need for online validation: Having an account can create a sense of peer pressure to gain followers, likes, and comments. This pressure may result in your child seeking validation from others instead of developing their own sense of self-worth.

Cyberbullying: Adolescents with social media accounts are at a higher risk of being targeted by cyberbullies, leading to negative emotional and psychological consequences.

Privacy concerns: When your child has their own account, they might unintentionally share personal information that can be exploited by others.

You can offset some of these risks by monitoring your child’s account and enforcing screen time limits, but this will require engagement from you on an ongoing basis. Apps like BrightCanary send you alerts when your child sees concerning content, which cuts down on your need to review every post and video — but it’s a good idea to still have regular social media check-ins with your child.

Letting Your Child Only Watch on a Friend’s Device Instead

If your child occasionally watches TikTok videos on a friend's phone instead, some of the risks and negative impacts may be reduced:

Limited screen time: Watching videos only occasionally limits the amount of time your child spends on the platform. Less time on social media is a good thing because excessive screen time has been connected to worse mental health outcomes for kids and teens.

Less peer pressure: Without an account, your child is less likely to be influenced by the need for online validation, allowing them to focus on developing their self-esteem offline.

Lower risk of cyberbullying: Without an account, your child is less likely to be targeted by cyberbullies, reducing the risk of negative emotional and psychological impacts.

Privacy protection: If your child doesn't have their own account, they're less likely to share personal information online.

But the tradeoff is you won’t have any visibility into what they’re watching or doing, and that limits your ability to provide input and guidance.

Letting your child watch TikTok videos occasionally on a friend’s device minimizes some of the downsides of social media. But your child may still be exposed to inappropriate content on their friend’s phone, and you’ll have less visibility into what they’re seeing and doing. 

What to Consider When Making Your Decision

So, should you allow your child to watch TikTok videos on a friend’s phone? The following factors can help you make an informed decision that prioritizes your child's safety and well-being while still respecting their desire to engage with their peers in the digital world.

Age and maturity: If you believe they are mature enough to handle the content and potential risks associated with occasional TikTok viewing, you may feel more comfortable allowing them to watch videos on a friend's phone.

Content and friend's influence: If you trust your child’s friend and believe they have a positive influence on your child, you may feel more comfortable knowing that the content will be filtered or curated by someone who shares your values.

Parental involvement: Your level of involvement in your child's digital life plays a significant role in this decision. Regularly discussing social media use, monitoring their online activities, and establishing open communication can help ensure that your child is engaging safely and responsibly, even if they only use TikTok occasionally. You’ll also want to consider how involved your friend’s parents are: do their parents periodically check-in while their kids are using social media, or do they have more of a hands-off approach?

Father and daughter having a conversation at dinner

Alternative activities: Consider what alternative activities your child can engage in, both online and offline. Encouraging your child to participate in hobbies, extracurricular activities, and spending quality time with friends and family can help minimize the appeal of social media platforms like TikTok.

Trust and boundaries: Establishing trust with your child is essential when it comes to their social media use. If you can trust your child to follow the boundaries you've set regarding occasional TikTok viewing, it may be worth considering allowing them to watch videos on a friend's phone.

Communication and understanding: It’s essential to have ongoing conversations with your child about the potential risks and negative impacts of social media. If your child understands the reasons behind your decision and can acknowledge the potential dangers, they may be more equipped to handle occasional exposure to platforms like TikTok.

By carefully considering these factors and weighing the potential risks and benefits, you can make a more informed decision about whether to allow your child to watch TikTok videos on a friend's phone occasionally. 

This is a tricky decision for parents because your child may very well use a friend’s phone behind your back, especially if they’re away from home. However, by explaining why those rules matter, you can help your child understand why it’s important to minimize social media use.

Ultimately, your decision should prioritize your child's safety and well-being while respecting their desire to engage with their peers in a digital world.

The Bottom Line

Allowing your child to occasionally watch TikTok videos on a friend's phone, instead of having their own account, can help reduce the negative impacts associated with daily social media use — while still allowing your kid to feel looped into what their friends are watching and discussing. This compromise may work better for both you and your child, especially since it will be difficult to prevent them from doing it anyway.

On the other hand, you won’t have any visibility into what they’re seeing and doing if it’s not on a social media account you monitor. So, it’s important to talk to your child about the risks of platforms like TikTok. That way, they can make more informed decisions when they’re away from home. Either way, by setting clear boundaries and expectations, fostering open communication, and emphasizing the importance of offline connections, you can help your child navigate the world of social media safely and responsibly.

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