TikTok was fined $5.7 million for violating the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), but you might be surprised at other companies that were also fined.
In the era of “digital parenting,” it’s nearly impossible to keep up with social media trends. One day, the children are captivated by an app that turns them into a unicorn. The next day you are considered “uncool” if you use it.
Lately, a hugely popular app among kids and teens, which in turn has raised concerns among educators and parents, is TikTok.
TikTok is an app built around short videos where users can lip-sync to popular songs, create their own music videos, or string together a number of short clips in quick succession.
We spoke with Sam Jingfors, Founder and CEO of Variable X VR, about TikTok’s recent fine for violating children’s privacy and how adults can ensure that this app and other apps are used appropriately.
This summer, TikTok was fined* $5.7 million by the Federal Trade safCommission for violation of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). The app did not obtain explicit parental consent before collecting the names, email addresses, and other personal information of users under 13.
While the TikTok breach garnered a lot of national attention due to it being the highest monetary penalty applied to a social media privacy company, these breaches are extremely common among companies. intended for children.
“Overall, we have seen other companies – including Disney and Google – receive smaller fines for monetary penalty violations for the lack of privacy protections on their platform,” said Jingfors. “I think they’re really big players who ultimately compete for kids’ attention on their platform, which equates to monetary value for them. I think it’s going to be an ongoing battle moving forward with all social media companies.
The dangers of oversharing personal information
Of course, one of the biggest concerns parents and teachers have about these breaches is the potential for minors’ personal information to fall into the wrong hands.
Jingfors says the biggest hurdle to this is having a conversation with kids and students to make sure they don’t share too many personal details on social media.
“If you take a look at TikTok and look at the videos that come up on the home feed and click on the profiles of these users, it won’t take you very long to be able to find very obvious disclosures by students on their own biographies. of their platform. It’s not specific to TikTok – it happens on Instagram and it happens on YouTube,” says Jingfors, “For example, students will say, ‘Follow me on my other platforms’ and ‘This is the school I frequent”, and , ‘This is my age.’ It’s actually a lot of self-disclosure by students on their own platforms that leads to over-sharing of information.
Many videos posted by children via TikTok are taken at home, which Jingfors says can tell a lot about a child.
“So if they’re dancing around their bedroom in lip sync to a Taylor Swift song, what we’re concerned about on the adult side is what’s in the background of that bedroom,” he warns. . “What you can see on the walls, for example, can give someone an intimate knowledge of a child. These are the things we want parents to be aware of.
Encouragingly, Jingfors says TikTok has several privacy protections in place that many other social media platforms do not. For example, TikTok does not allow users to send videos or images via direct messaging, unlike other popular platforms such as Facebook and Instagram.
“For people seeking to exploit children who quite often solicit inappropriate and explicit sexts or photos from users and young people, these images cannot be sent via TikTok,” says Jingfors. “The problem is that predators try to direct children to another platform so they can share this information.”
Stay on top of social media trends
As Jingfors says, TikTok is the “flavor of the week” and the popularity of apps is constantly changing. Adults should be on the lookout for other emerging and persistent trends.
Over the past school year, mobile video games have garnered a lot of attention, such as PUBG and Fortnite. Anonymous Q&A social media platforms also continue to be popular, raising the pervasive issue of bullying.
“Dating back to several years ago, it was Ask.fm. Then it was Whisper, Yik Yak and After School App. But this past school year, we saw an app called Sarahah, and then another called Tellonym,” says Jingfors. “Throughout the school year, you’re going to have ebbs and flows of apps that kick in for a few weeks and then disappear into the abyss.”
Although it can be overwhelming, staying on top of social media trends and talking with kids about their proper use will undoubtedly make a difference in keeping them safe.
*The FTC violation was imposed on California-based company Musical.ly. The breach was reported after the company was purchased by ByteDance and rebranded as TikTok in November 2017.