What I Learned After Spending A Week On TikTok

by Mindy Sherman
Originally Published: 
A woman with a shocked face discovers new things while watching a TikTok
Scary Mommy and Tim Robberts/Getty

Having a tween on social media is terrifying for me on so many levels. Pedophiles, cyberbullying, social inclusivity/exclusivity, inappropriate behavior, and delicate topics (that you were hoping to save until they were teenagers) can impact them in ways they, and we as parents, are unprepared to handle at such young ages.

This is uncharted territory for many of us parents — basically all of us. None of us grew up with social media and it seems like every day there is a new app for our kids to communicate through. Most parents are still quite content with Facebook and the occasional Instagram post. Now with TikTok, Instagram Live and Stories, Snapchat and now Snapchat Private Stories (which I still haven’t explored), our children are more exposed — and exposing themselves more — than ever before.

My kids know that if they are going to have these accounts, I’m going to watch them. I’m signed into all of their accounts on my phone. If I ever find out that they have a secret account, they will lose their phones indefinitely. And as an experiment, I’ve spent the last week observing my children, their “friends” and the recommended videos these apps provide based on my child’s viewing trends. And here is what I saw…

– Your daughter just posted a collage of her best friends and left one of her friends out, which happens to be your best friend’s daughter.

– Your husband was in a TikTok. He probably doesn’t know that when he was pretending to slap your daughter, she would put it to the following words: “jocking the bitch, slapping the ho…”

– Your 10-year-old and her friends made gestures of sucking and swallowing while dancing to words about oral sex.

– Your 13-year-old and their friends were singing and rapping to the lyrics that include homophobic slurs…outside of their school.

– Your elementary-age child saw a video on their “For You” page (FYP) about abortion.

– Your 14-year-old son posting about eating ass.

– Your 10-year-old did a TikTok on the couch laying on the birthday boy singing “bust that pu**y open” …

– Your 10- and 13-year-old kids bonding over TikTok, yelling words such as f**ck, b***h, whore, the n-word, and slut. They tagged it “while our parents think we’re studying.”

– Your 11-year-old singing the following lyrics, “Hey, wanna f**k.” The same child is also a fan of “Uber to my d**k” and pole dancing.

– Your 12-year-old posted a racist video comparing white kids to black kids yelling at their parents. There was an outfit change.

– Your 9-year-old daughter literally begged her followers for likes while doing a TikTok in her pajamas with her belly showing.

– Your daughter clicked on spam and sent my daughter (and I’m sure many others) a link saying, “Oh no! (Insert my daughter’s name) you didn’t make the cool list!”

– Your 9-year-old kids posted a video comparing black and white quarterbacks…to a song with the N word.

– Your 13-year-old was singing “you’ve been getting f***ed, you’ve been giving head” while singing seductively into the camera.

– Your tween posted a video pointing to words (in parentheses) while singing the following: I hate you (school), I love you (friends), I miss you (camp), b***h f**k you (homework), now go to a cliff and jump off b***h (a child’s name in their 5th grade class).

– Your daughter posted the names of her “3 favorite best friends.”

– Your son dumped a pitcher of water on your kitchen floor.

– Your 14-year-old lying in bed in her pajamas rapping to “I was 13 when I lost my virginity…”

– Your daughter’s best friend commented “What about me 😢” when she wasn’t included in her “squad glow up.” “There was no more room” is what she learned. Your daughter was in her “squad glow up” yesterday.

– Your 9-year-old asks for likes in her video showing off their new Aviator sweatshirt and Golden Goose sneakers.

– Your kids make fun of their teachers on TikTok.

– Your 10-year-old just posted a TikTok saying they have an STD.

– Your kid posted a group picture and crossed one child out.

– According to your daughter’s TikTok, Halloween is the only time she can dress like a slut. Her words, not mine.

– Your 14-year-old scantily dressed singing the following song:

“I know you think about me in the shower

PornHub in your browser Fantasize about the p***y power Think about me with your hand on your trousers I’m sweet then I’m sour, I’m big boss Bowser”

– Your teenager posted to their Snapchat Private Stories a conversation they had with a kid who asked to be invited to their party and was denied entrance.

– Hook up or Pass on Snapchat, ask your teenage son or daughter about it.

– Your daughter, who is trying very hard to make friends, posted a raffle — the prize was that she would like and comment on all of the winner’s posts. Now she keeps making more of the same video, because she gets a lot of comments.

– Your young child may have just learned where babies come from on her FYP.

– The vast majority of your kids on TikTok know the following lyrics (sexual gestures included):

One, two

Who the f**k is you, b***h? Three, four Come and get yo ho, b***h Five, six Suck a n***a d**k, b***h Seven, eight How that d**k taste, b***h?

– Your daughter had a very bad day at school today and asked her friends to “plz help” on TikTok by liking her post.

– Your daughter saw a video on her FYP this morning before school describing the shooting death of a teenager.

– Your daughter laughed at some girl’s “squad blowup” post because the girl posting really isn’t in that “squad.”

– Your daughter “hijacked” her friend’s phone and posted a video tagging a girl in their grade (that they make fun of) as her “bestie.”

– Your husband was talking about his bad day at work in the background of your daughter’s Instagram Live video.

– Your daughters are constantly calling each other b***s, whores and sluts. I understand that this is today’s music and it’s (usually) said in a playful way, I worry how desensitized these kids are getting to this type of language.

After this week-long experiment, it’s clear to me that as a whole, parents are not talking to their kids about what they are posting or why they are posting it. If you take anything at all away from this article, please sit your kids down, of all ages, and discuss their use of social media. Go over their posts with them, show them what could get them in trouble with a college recruiter down the road or send their best friend to bed crying. Ask them how many accounts they have on these apps. You will be surprised to learn that many of your kids have multiple handles, some with horrifying names. Spend a week, even a day, observing your child’s TikTok account. Until then, trust me, these apps are hurting our children, in one way or another.

Talk to your kids about the consequences of inappropriate posts.

From the second we signed up, my kids knew that if they couldn’t show it to their teacher, coach or grandparent, they probably shouldn’t post it. If they wouldn’t want their future employer or future in laws to see it, it’s probably not a good idea to share it. It was a mantra. For their first few months, my kids would ask me permission before they posted something. They understand that these videos can be shared and downloaded and there is no telling who will see it — now, when applying for college, or beyond. They also understand that there are some really bad people with the wrong intentions out there and it makes them unsafe to allow people they don’t know to follow them. Do your children understand that?

Talk to your kids about why they are posting.

Sit down with your child, elementary age, tween or teenager. Ask your children their intentions behind their posts. It may take some digging. You may learn some of what I learned while following your kids this week:

As kids get older, it’s important we acknowledge that not all behavior is innocent and naive. So, while I believe all kids need to learn from an early age that they can’t be included in every plan, they also need to learn that not every dinner, play date, sleepover or outfit change needs to be posted for all of their 700 followers to see. While some may post innocently, there are those kids who want other children to feel excluded. They thrive on it. They feel validated by announcing to their followers that they are part of a “bestie squad.” Those kids are smart enough to know who is missing from their plans and then all post the same videos, tagging each other. It makes them feel good to know that other girls are at home feeling envious, left out and wanting to be a part of the fun, cool group.

Own it, if this may be your kid. It doesn’t make you a bad parent, or them a bad kid. They are all finding their way. Talk to your child. Encourage inclusivity. Help them understand why their constant group posting could hurt other children. Perhaps saving the video versus sharing it publicly could save another child a night in tears.

It’s horrifying to see how many followers some of your kids have, and how many of your kids’ settings are public. Your child should not be following — and more importantly, be followed — by people they don’t know. Anyone can make a TikTok account: a principal, a creepy pedophile, or a college recruiter. The majority of the teen accounts I’ve come across are public. These kids are seeking validation through likes, comments, and followers. The more followers they have, the more likes their videos get, the cooler and more accepted they feel. How is any parent okay with this message? And how is any parent okay with a potential pedophile watching your children in these videos?!

Your children do really stupid things for likes. (Read examples above.)

Talk to your kids about what is appropriate and inappropriate to post.

If you’d like to practice what I preach, below is our mantra — the guidelines my children use when deciding if something is “post-worthy”:

How would I feel if my teacher, parent, or grandmother saw this? Would I want my future employer, in laws or children to see this post one day?

Will I be embarrassed about this tomorrow?

Am I being safe, by not revealing where I am (when I’m there)?

Will any of my peers feel embarrassed, ashamed, hurt, or bullied by this post?

Will anybody truly feel left out by this post? I say “truly,” because as mentioned above, I understand that everyone cannot always be included. Sometimes it’s more obvious or intentional than others.

Will someone find my post racist, homophobic, sexist, or body shaming?

Am I demeaning myself or my friends by posting this video?

When I started this little project, I was concerned about my own kids. As I complete this phase, I’m terribly concerned for their entire generation. I don’t know the answer, but I do know social media is here to stay, whether it be, TikTok, or the next abomination (which seems to be Snapchat Private Stories). Scrolling through TikTok is like watching your kids walk into oncoming traffic. I hate every second of it.

Please talk to your kids and make it stop.

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