June is Internet Safety Month, but in 2020, it was overshadowed by the COVID-19 pandemic and racial tensions that flooded news and social media feeds. During this time of social isolation, more children and teens are turning to their phones to help fill the void. Globally, Gen Z (5-25 year-olds) phone use increased 89% by March 2020. Understanding online safety has never been more important, especially with growing concerns about TikTok, one of the most popular apps for children and teens these days.
Data Privacy Issues With TikTok
With more than 500 million active users worldwide, TikTok is a social media video app for creating and sharing short videos. There are growing concerns about data privacy and surveillance through TikTok, which is owned by ByteDance, a China-based A.I. company. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Monday that the US is considering banning TikTok over concerns of Chinese surveillance.
Deveren Werne says he advises his clients, friends and family against using TicTok. He’s partner and owner of Liquid Video Technologies, Mojoe.net and TSVMap.com. Deveren specializes in Internet, mobile apps, web applications, IoT, security and more. Deveren says TikTok collects all the data a user enters into the application and stores in China, where it could be shared with the Chinese government. He says, “TikTok uses Artificial Intelligence to store faces, audio, and other information about users. The videos are saved on TikTok servers and are used to advance their AI. The app is learning about everyone who uses it.”
TikTok & Internet Predators
TikTok is also under fire from the National Center on Sexual Exploitation, an advocacy group that works to oppose sexual exploitation. It releases a “dirty dozen” list each year. TikTok is on the 2020 dirty dozen list for various reasons that include the app’s default public account setting and lack of in-app reporting systems for sexually explicit content. The NCOSE says TikTok has facilitated a space for sexual grooming by abusers or potentially sex traffickers, due to a lack of moderation and insufficient safety controls, This comes at a time when the Attorney General’s Office has reported a 360% increase in human trafficking victims in South Carolina alone, with Greenville County at the second-highest rate in the state.
TikTok isn’t the only online safety concern. We sat down with Rick Floyd, aka The Internet Safety Guy, at the end of last month to discuss the latest trends involving online predators and what you can do to protect the ones you love. Rick served 19 years as a computer crimes detective for the Greenville City Police Department. He currently leads information security, education technology services for the Greenville County School District. He also speaks to homeowners associations, church congregations and other groups, including virtual meetings about online safety. You can reach him at (864) 630-1467.
Online Safety Resources
- Watch our interview with Rick Floyd to learn more about Internet safety and how to protect your child online.
- Visit this website for more information on Bark, a parental control monitoring app that Rick mentions during the interview.