TikTok Automatically Makes Under-16 Accounts Private To Combat Child Predators On The Platform

TikTok has recently announced that all under-16 accounts on the platform will automatically be set to private settings in an attempt to stop online predatory behavior.

Grooming is a growing, serious threat to underage individuals online. Due to the sprawling nature of the internet, users can interact with each other. And while most of these interactions are trivial quibbles over opinions, others leave a much more indelible mark. Children are rarely ever fully aware of their surroundings, and can't effectively grapple with the more nuanced ways that pedophiles have adopted in luring them.

Let's go over some basic terminology. Grooming is, in easy words, a tactic where a predatory adult will often endear themselves towards an unsuspecting child with words of affirmation and positive encouragement. This could start off by privately messaging them to compliment a picture the child drew. Or, more relevant to our subject at hand, DM'ing them with flowery words about their TikTok content. The child at hand, unsuspecting of more nefarious goals, will then be groomed over time into forming a relationship with the predator.

This sort of behavior is an ever-present threat on the platform. The Royal Malaysian Police has even issued a warning to parents regarding suspicious behavior on the platform. There are also a slew of screenshots from much less subtle creeps sending unsolicited messages to teenagers recorded by The Sun UK. However, actively banning youngsters from the platform is both a bad move for TikTok, as its business model relies on Gen Z, and for children in general. While shielding a child from the dangers of the world is a cause any parent can identify with, banning them from what is their way of having fun because of the disgusting tendencies of others seems harsh.

At this point, this author should also clarify that they do not necessarily disagree with parents doing so, or monitoring their child's interactions on the platform. Every parent has their own way of dealing with children, and they are very well entitled to it.

TikTok's default privacy settings mean that under-16 accounts can no longer be followed unless allowed by the account itself. Further on, other users can no longer duet to or download these videos. For ages 13-15, yet another privacy addition is that only friends can comment on their TikToks. Ages 16-18 will also have their videos restricted to outsiders, with only friend being able to use them for duets and stitching.

These measures are a balanced way of stemming predatory behavior on the platform. Under-age users can still continue to make and broadcast TikToks to their heart's content, and their friends can engage with them too. It does raise concerns, however, that rebellious teenagers might try to create fake accounts in an attempt to truly break the mold and achieve TikTok fame similar to that of the influencers they so admire.

Which is fine. Children will act as such. Instead of adopting a cruel mask of disdain, exclaiming that these children and their parents are at fault for posting online content, we should collectively call out and report pedophilic and predatory behavior online. Collectively working towards creating an online environment where kids can creatively shine, or mess around for the fun of it, is imperative.

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