TikTok parental controls: an updated guide for parents

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In this guide, we’ll go step by step to show you how to make TikTok a safe and enjoyable space for your kid by using parental controls and Digital Wellbeing tools to help you manage screen time and keep your kids safe from harmful content. 

Can you make TikTok safer with Parental Controls? 

Just when you thought you were “hip” to all the most common forms of music, Scam Rap—a very real and very dangerous new genre of rap—has reared its ugly head, guiding young users on TikTok to commit cybercrimes like business email compromise (BEC) and identity theft [*]. 

When kids follow through on these crime-themed lyrics, considering them a harmless way to earn some extra cash or win over a friend online might unwittingly turn them into money mules. 

Besides videos that use hip-hop to convince kids to break the law, TikTok is also chock-full of unsavory content. Certain permissions—or lack thereof—expose kids to mature videos, offensive hashtags, and inappropriate advances through direct messages. In Q4 of 2023 alone, TikTok purged over 176 million inappropriate videos to combat this type of spam [*].

But the best way to keep TikTok a fun and enjoyable app while keeping your kids safe? You! Here’s how.

Top TikTok terms you should know.

For a lot of parents, TikTok is uncharted territory. Understanding the TikTok lingo can help you connect with your kids about their online safety on their level. Here are the most common TikTok terms you might encounter:

  • For You” feed: The For You feed is curated to fit each user’s interests and behavior. As kids interact with the platform—watch videos, search for keywords, and explore new hashtags—the algorithm caters to their preferences and serves customized content.
  • “Following” feed: Just like it sounds, the Following feed displays the TikTok accounts your kid is following. It’s a good idea to make sure this list is made up of accounts you deem appropriate for your child—including friends and people they know. 
  • Challenges: Challenges encourage users to record themselves doing something humorous, vulnerable, or difficult and share these videos—persuading others to do the same. Most of the time, these challenges are all in good fun, but others can promote harmful behaviors that could lead to serious injuries. 
  • TikTok Shop: Now, users can buy products directly from the TikTok app. The Shop feed is essentially a modern version of the QVC channel where anyone can browse items or watch content with product tags from their For You, Following, and LIVE feeds (see below). Users can even find products with the search bar—or even take a photo of something to find similar products available for purchase on the app. 
  • TikTok Live: Like Facebook or Instagram Live, TikTok Live lets users interact in real-time. Creators use this feature to host live videos to interact with their followers—it’s kind of like pretending you’re in the same room with them. Brands may use Live for sales or giveaways. Live is only available for users over the age of 18.
  • Explore page: The Explore page (available on the web version of TikTok) is where users can find videos by categories, including Lipsync, Animals, Outfits, and more. 
  • In-feed ads: Unlike ads on other video apps, TikTok ads feel more “native” and organic. In-feed ads look just like regular TikTok videos and automatically play as users scroll through their feeds. For example, advertisers might feature well-known influencers to promote popular video games or beauty products.
  • QR code: TikTok gives every user a unique QR code to make it easier to follow each other. Instead of manually typing in a person’s handle, kids can swap profiles by pulling up their QR codes and asking friends to scan them like they would a QR code.
  • Duet and Stitch: Duets are two TikTok videos playing in a split-screen format using the same audio. Stitch offers another way for users to add their own flair to someone else’s content. You can clip and “stitch” scenes from another person’s video together to make an entirely new video. Stitch is only available for TikTok users who are 16 or older.
  • Reaction Videos: Within TikTok, users can record videos of themselves watching another person’s video. The idea is to show their spontaneous reactions to a video—whether it’s surprise, laughter, or shock.
  • Hashtags: Just like other social media apps, TikTok hashtags help users discover trending content from accounts and users who they don’t follow yet. 

📚 Related: 5 ways to decide if an app is safe for your kids

Young girl on phone

How to set up parental controls on TikTok (7 Steps).

  1. Set up Family Pairing
  2. Switch to a private account
  3. Enable Screen Time limits
  4. Set up Content preferences
  5. Adjust Direct Message (DM) settings
  6. Report or block users
  7. Flag content on TikTok‍

1. Connect your TikTok account (Family Pairing).

With TikTok’s Family Pairing function, parents can link their TikTok accounts to their kids’ accounts. This will help you view and activate multiple content and privacy control settings, including:

  • Daily screen time: Set time limits for TikTok.
  • Restricted Mode: Reduce the risk of exposure to mature content.
  • Search: Prevent your kid from searching for certain hashtags or videos.
  • Discoverability: Set your child’s account to Private so they can approve or reject follow requests.
  • Suggest account to others: Choose whether your teen’s account can be suggested to other users.
  • Direct Messages (DMs): Limit who can send messages to your child or turn off DMs completely. DMs should default to “off” for account holders under 16.
  • Liked videos: Limit who can see your kid’s “liked” videos.
  • Comments: Limit who can comment on your kid’s videos.

How to set up Family Pairing.

  • Click on your profile and tap the Menu button.
  • Tap Settings and Privacy to find Family Pairing.
  • Select Teen or Parent before following the prompts to link both accounts.


Additional age-limited features.

In 2019, TikTok released TikTok for Younger Users, a limited app experience for TikTok users under the age of 13. This age-gated environment:

  • Doesn’t share user data.
  • Uses ultra careful content restrictions.
  • Prevents interactions like commenting, direct messaging, sharing, and maintaining followers.

TikTok also has a 12+ age rating with the Apple App Store and Google Play. If parents activate parental controls on their child’s iPhone or Android, that rating will intrinsically block kids from downloading TikTok on their phones.

2. Switch to a private account.

In 2021, TikTok changed the default privacy setting for kids between 13 and 15 years old. When minors sign up for TikTok, their accounts default to Private. Only someone the child approves as a follower can see their videos.

Keep in mind, this change does not restrict children from later changing their profiles from private to public. You’ll want to verify your kids’ accounts are private in their profile settings.

How to change your child’s account to private.

  • Under Settings and Privacy, turn on the Private Account feature.

Additional age-limited features.

As part of the same safety rollout in 2021, TikTok:

  • Automatically turned off the “Suggest your account to others” feature for kids between 13 and 15.
  • Updated commenting options so that the same age group can only choose between “Friends” or “No One” commenting on their videos. 
  • Prevented anyone from downloading videos created by users between 13 and 15 years old.
  • Removed duet and stitch capabilities for anyone under the age of 16. For 16 and 17-year-olds, this feature defaults to “Friends” only.
  • Restricted buying, sending, and receiving of virtual gifts for users under 18.

📚 Related: Is Discord safe for kids? A quickstart guide for parents

3. Turn on Screen Time limits.

If you’ve used TikTok, you’ve probably noticed how easy it is to mindlessly scroll. The app has been especially addictive for kids. Luckily, you can restrict the amount of time they spend on the app each day by using TikTok’s screen time management tool. When kids hit their daily time limit, they’ll get a notification asking for a passcode to sign in again.

How to set up Screen Time limits.

  • Go to Settings and Privacy, tap Screen Time and then Daily Screen Time.
  • Follow the prompts to set limits anywhere between 40 to 120 minutes. Then, create a passcode to lock in these settings.

Other screen time limit features.

  • Screen time breaks: Parents can use this feature to remind their kids to take breaks from TikTok every so often. You can configure when break notifications should appear in the Screen time section of a child’s profile.
  • Weekly screen time updates: With this feature turned on, users receive a push notification telling them how much time they spend on TikTok throughout the week.
  • Screen time dashboard: In the Screen Time area under profile settings, you can view the cumulative time spent on TikTok for the current week, the number of times the app was opened, and even use date filters to see stats from previous weeks.

Control screen time at the device level.

You can also restrict time on TikTok (and other apps, like YouTube and Instagram) directly on your child’s iOS or Android phone.

  • For Apple devices, go to Settings and tap Screen Time.
  • For Android devices, go to Settings, Digital Well-being & parental controls, tap the chart and choose Set timer next to the apps you want to limit.

You could also look at using a trusted digital parenting control app. Aura’s parental controls allow you to set limits and restrictions on specific apps so you can rest assured that your kid is staying safe online. 

4. Set up Content Preferences.

Content preferences allow you to choose what content your kids see on TikTok. Head on over to the Content Preferences section of your child’s profile to make adjustments—and even hide videos from specific users. 

How to adjust Content Preferences.

  • Choose Content Preferences from Settings and Privacy.
  • Choose specific languages for all videos.

Or, if your child is watching a video from a creator you want to block:

  • Press and hold down the video before tapping Not Interested.
  • Then, tap More and choose Hide Videos from this User.

Other content preference features.

There are a few other ways that you can restrict content on your child’s For You and Following feeds:

  • Filtering Video Keywords: In the Content Preferences area of your child’s profile, go to Filter Video keywords. You’ll be able to add up to 100 keywords or hashtags that you’d like to remove from their feeds.
  • Turn on Restricted Mode: Restricted Mode helps you restrict content TikTok deems as unfit for younger audiences. You can turn this feature on by going to Content Preferences. Note: This will also disable features like the Following page and gifting. 
  • Search functionality: If you’ve turned on Family Pairing, your kid won’t be able to search for videos, hashtags, or live videos on TikTok.
  • Video Duet settings: Only creators over 16 years old with public accounts can Duet. Even if Duet settings are turned on, users can still control who can make a Duet with their content.

5. Adjust Direct Message (DM) settings.

Predators will use direct messaging to target, groom, and scam unsuspecting minors on social media. That means confirming DMs are turned off is key to making sure your kid stays safe online. 

According to the company, direct messaging is not available by default to TikTok users under 16. Users who are 16 or 17 years old have the direct message feature set to No One by default.

If you have an older teenager, you can still disable direct messaging by activating Family Pairing or by adjusting settings to No One or Friends.

How to check and adjust DM settings.

  • Go to Privacy, choose Direct Messages, and select No One.

📚 Related: Stay safe when chatting online: a guide for parents and families

6. Report or block users.

If you start noticing your kid is interacting with strangers on TikTok, we recommend blocking those accounts entirely. This will ensure they can’t: 

  • Follow your child’s account.
  • View your child’s videos.
  • Like or comment on your child’s videos.

How to block a user.

  • Go to the profile you want to block.
  • Tap the three-dot icon in the upper right corner of the profile. 
  • Choose Block and follow the following prompts to block that user.

Want to block a handful of users at the same time? Here’s how:.

  • Press and hold on a comment, or tap the pencil icon.
  • Tap Manage Multiple Comments. You’ll be able to select up to 100 comments.
  • Then tap More to block those accounts.

If a user sends inappropriate messages, shares harmful content, or violates any of TikTok’s Community Guidelines, you or your child should report them right away.

How to report a user.

  • Go to the user’s profile and tap the three-dot icon.
  • Select Report and follow the prompts.

7. Flag content on TikTok.

Even with all these restrictions in place, damaging content can still slip through the cracks. Talk to your kid about the importance of talking to you about inappropriate content so you can report it. Or, empower them to report it themselves. 

How to report a video.

  • Press and hold the video.
  • Select Report.
  • Follow the prompts to complete the reporting process.

You can also report a video using TikTok’s online form. TikTok’s moderation team will examine the case and take appropriate action.

More ways to keep your children safe on TikTok.

Review TikTok app permissions.

A lot of kids sign up for TikTok without thinking twice about their safety or safety settings inside the app. While some features are set by default, it’s a good idea to double-check content preferences, followers, privacy, and screen time.

Understand TikTok’s Community Guidelines.

It’s no secret that TikTok has become one of the most popular social media apps in the world; it’s become a central part of the younger generation’s culture. And, luckily for parents, the app does a good job with their no-tolerance policy by removing content related to self-harm, nudity, harassment, violence, extremism, illegal activities, and other content that violates their Community Guidelines.

However, it’s still important to talk to your kids that they may still encounter cyberbullying, as well as eating disorder or self-harm content and that those videos violate TikTok guidelines. Teaching kids how to block and report malicious users and content keeps the platform safer for them and their friends.

📚 Related: 10 warning signs of cyberbullying (and what to do)

Help children identify adult content and scams.

Online predators take advantage of the fact that most kids want to become “TikTok famous.” The Better Business Bureau (BBB) found that scammers will design schemes to coax kids into making suggestive videos for money [*]. 

As you probably guessed, they never get paid. Instead, these videos live online and damage the child’s reputation and sense of self-worth as they get older. 

You should reinforce with your kid that it’s never acceptable or appropriate for anyone to pressure them into doing something they don’t want to do. Walk your kids through the steps to block and report users, and reassure them that you’re there to help.

📚 Related: 10 ways to help your kids avoid online scams

Explore TikTok’s digital well-being tools as a team.

Sitting down and talking to your children about what they do on TikTok can have real-world impact. Explain how screen time and inappropriate videos affect their moods and overall mental health. Get their perspectives on what they want to get out of the platform and make a plan of action together. 

If you’re not sure where to start this conversation around family safety, try using the seven questions TikTok provides in its parental guide.

Coach children to know when and how to report incidents.

Sharing good social media hygiene, reviewing TikTok Community Guidelines, and clarifying how to report users and content are good places to start.

The most important thing is to make sure your kids feel comfortable coming to you with an issue.

Serving as a trusted advisor and sounding board can help them understand that you aren’t there to judge them. Instead, you’re there to help them problem-solve.

Other TikTok FAQs.

Does TikTok have age limits?

TikTok is listed as 12+ in Apple’s App Store and as “Parental Guidance Recommended” on Google Play. If adults have parental restrictions activated on iOS or Android, kids won’t be able to download TikTok.

Also, TikTok asks users to verify their birthdays upon signup to ensure that they have an age-appropriate TikTok experience. If TikTok suspects that someone under 13 years old has registered, their account will be banned.

📚 Related: Parental controls: your guide to safeguarding kids online

Can I monitor my child’s activity on TikTok?

TikTok has built-in tools that allow parents to set daily screen time limits and enable Restricted Mode to limit unsuitable content. These settings are in your child’s privacy settings under Digital Well-being.

How can I make my child’s account private?

TikTok accounts for users under 16 are automatically set to private—other users have to request to follow them. 

Only approved followers can see content that private users like and post. No other users can download videos from a private account to create duets or stitches. You can confirm that your child’s account is private by going to their profile, clicking on Settings and Privacy, and clicking on Privacy.

📚 Related: 10 ways to protect your child from identity theft

Is TikTok safe for kids? 

TikTok’s Global Trust and Safety team is taking proactive steps to keep kids safe while using their app. In February 2022, they launched a global project to help teens avoid potentially harmful challenges and hoaxes on the platform.

TikTok also surveyed thousands of parents to assess the app’s Family Pairing features and to help parents have more productive conversations with their teenagers about the app.

As TikTok continues to improve its overall safety for young people, there are things you can do to secure your minor’s account now:

  • Keep all contact information up to date: TikTok alerts users of suspicious activity via the phone number and email listed on their profiles—with accurate contact information, you and/or your kids will be alerted about dangerous content and users.
  • Use a robust password manager: Using an encryption-based password manager reduces the chances of unauthorized access to your kid’s TikTok account.
  • Enable two-factor authentication (2FA): Additional layers of security like 2FA prevent identity theft and help make sure your child is the only person accessing their TikTok account.
  • Review and manage all connected devices: Use TikTok’s device management features to see which of your child’s devices are logged in to TikTok. You will receive notifications in case of suspicious account activity.
  • Flag phishing DMs: Confirm that direct messaging has been turned off for younger children, and instruct older teenagers to report users who send dubious or harmful DMs.

The bottom line: With the right guidelines in place, TikTok can be a safe place for kids (and adults) to be entertained and educated by creators from around the world…oh yeah, and check out the latest viral trends!

Keep in mind: TikTok’s Family Pairing is only available on the TikTok mobile app—you won’t be able to use this feature by looking at the web-based version on mobile or desktop browsers. You’ll want to download the TikTok app onto your phone, create an account, then set up Family Pairing. 

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