Posted by Julia Daniels | Children and Porn, For Families, How to
Reading Time: 7 minutes

Is your teen’s nose glued to their screen, endlessly scrolling TikTok? Then this stat won’t surprise YOU!  A  2022 Pew Research Center study notes that in the United States alone, two-thirds of 13 to 17 year-olds use TikTok.

Mic drop! That’s reason enough to learn about both the positives and the hidden dangers of TikTok for teens especially.

Why is TikTok so popular with teens?

TikTok is a fun, interactive search engine for Gen Z.

Unleashing creativity and freely shared opinions, there’s nothing boring about TikTok’s free app! Plus, searching TikTok videos for information is way more entertaining than Google search, notes The New York Times

“Instead of just slogging through walls of text, Gen Z-ers crowdsource recommendations from TikTok videos to pinpoint what they are looking for, watching video after video to cull the content.”

Some teens dream of going viral on TikTok

Anyone can create videos on TikTok, so many teens look for personal affirmation there, dreaming of a chance to “go viral” online.

Sadly, “trending” on TikTok isn’t always safe or harmless for teens, and it’s important to know the reasons why.

Is TikTok harmful for teens?

A secret link between OnlyFans and TikTok 

“Only ugly girls get diplomas” is a phrase heard in some highschools, notes Heidi Olson, a sexual assault nurse examiner. Some vulnerable teen girls, influenced in part by hypersexualized content on TikTok, believe OnlyFans is a career ticket to quick money and success.

To be clear, TikTok states that OnlyFans accounts cannot be linked or promoted on TikTok. But just a little digging uncovers OnlyFans adult content creators with huge followings on TikTok. 

By creatively using “edgy” posts, some adult content creators are luring people off of TikTok. For example, this is a warning sign: “No DMs here. Connect with me on Instagram or Twitter!”

This is often *code* for “creating a thirst trap”.  It’s a simple matter to lead people into their DMs on other social platforms, so parents need to be aware.

Teens are being exposed to dangerous content on TikTok

Hidden dangers for teens on TikTok include access to dangerous content, possible cyberbullying or grooming, and an algorithm that is unsafe. Parents are right to be worried about TikTok! For example:

“The first lawsuit, which was filed on Tuesday, alleges that TikTok lures children onto the platform by falsely claiming it is friendly for users between 13 to 17 years old.

American teens spend an average of 99 minutes per day on the app, the lawsuit claims, and in that time they’re exposed to content that can contain drug and alcohol use, nudity and intense profanity.” –

One such lawsuit was filed by parents whose children died because of a “blackout challenge”, fueled by TikTok videos of self-inflicted choking to get “high”. 

Unfortunately, this isn’t an isolated incident. Numerous dangerous challenges have surfaced on TikTok before being discovered. 

TikTok and Teens Hidden Dangers Wall Street Journal Quote

Multiple mental health dangers of TikTok for teens

CNN  recently published a study done by the Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH):

“For our study, Center for Countering Digital Hate researchers set up new accounts in the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia at the minimum age TikTok allows, 13 years old. These accounts paused briefly on videos about body image and mental health, and liked them. What we found was deeply disturbing. Within 2.6 minutes, TikTok recommended suicide content. Within 8 minutes, TikTok served content related to eating disorders. Every 39 seconds, TikTok recommended videos about body image and mental health to teens.”

Even though TikTok originated in China (called Bytedance in China), a recent Chinese study admits TikTok can be addictive. 

“Chinese researchers analyzed college students. They gave them videos they liked and took brain scans. It showed certain sections of the brain associated with addiction were lit up.” –

Other mental health experts agree. Here’s why!

The “sticky algorithm” on TikTok increases screen time use – linked to teen depression.

“…psychologist Dr. Jean Twenge said TikTok’s algorithm in particular is “very sophisticated” and “very sticky,” keeping teens hooked on the platform for longer… ‘Many teens describe the experience of going on TikTok with the intention of spending 15 minutes and then spending two hours or more. This is problematic because the more time a teen spends on social media, the more likely they are to be depressed…,’ says Twenge.”

TikTok and teens – hidden danger of bias 

Influencers and news sources can post anything, although TikTok employs fact-checkers. Combined with TikTok’s sticky algorithm, parents should consider who is influencing their teens regularly.

According to a FoxNews interview with FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr, TikTok is:  “The number one place where young Americans get their news…”

FCC Commissioner Carr also notes that TikTok (called Bytedance in China) censors harmful content for Chinese teens only, showing entirely different content to Chinese young people of mostly educational materials.

As noted earlier, TikTok’s algorithm pushes dangerous and radically different content to teens as young as 13 in the United States.

Alongside potentially biased content algorithms for US teens, the FBI and CIA also believe TikTok poses a national cyber security risk for data privacy reasons.

A little good news about TikTok safety and your teen

Though cautiously optimistic, we’d clearly label TikTok as NSFK (Not Safe For Kids).

Think of TikTok like a dash of hot ghost pepper sauce on your taco. If you’re extra vigilant to partner with and monitor your older teens’ usage of the app, they might be able to handle it in small doses. Here’s why. 

TikTok kicked Pornhub off its platform.

Laila Mickelwait and the National Center on Sexual Exploitation both publicly called out TikTok and other social media platforms for Pornhub’s TikTok presence being easily accessible by teens. 

Possibly due to this scrutiny,TikTok recently responded by banning Pornhub. Now that’s a win for parents everywhere!

We'd clearly label TikTok as NSFK (Not Safe For Kids)!
TikTok and Teens Hidden Dangers

Parental controls are an option inside TikTok 

TikTok boasts parental controls inside the app, which are actually pretty impressive, unlike Discord. However, you will still need to monitor your tech-savvy teens’ activity inside TikTok, especially limiting comments and DM’s.

Here are some safety steps you can take right in the app:

  • set up privacy settings
  • set up filters and blocks
  • monitor and limit time spent in the app
  • link your child’s account to a family account
  • password protect a setting to block out the worst of content

Safety tips for teens using TikTok

Encourage healthy activities off screen 

Ever worried about your own screen time? (Yes, even GenX accumulates too much screen time.) So, consider approaching the topic honestly and humbly with your teen by saying, Let’s work on our mental health together. 

Be creative! Propose a weekly/monthly “screen time limits” challenge. Then gamify the challenge with an enjoyable activity-based reward at the end, like a night out bowling or indoor rock climbing. For best results, let your teen suggest or choose the activity.

Ever Accountable Guide TikTok And Teens Hidden Dangers

5 positive steps to create an online accountability partnership with your teen.

The ball is truly in your court. However, we’re your stealth partner on a mission to protect teens from porn. 

We know it’s hard to be the Family Bureau of Investigation, but here’s where our accountability app can truly help you up your game!

You can build trust and transparency one step at a time.

  1. Discuss family values around sex and relationships regularly. 
  2. Set up social media boundaries together including screen time limits, safety, and privacy settings. Use our accountability software to help you check in together regularly. Our weekly reports make it easier to stay on top of these boundaries! 
  3. Connect with your teen by setting up your own social accounts and sharing enjoyable or educational content with each other.
  4. Design a safety plan for encountering dangerous content on TikTok. 
    1. Screenshot. 
    2. Block. 
    3. Report a problem to TikTok (and then delete screenshots). 
  5. Encourage lively conversations about things you see on social media. 
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If you need help optimizing our accountability software to help monitor your teen’s social media use, check out our set-up guides:

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Works Cited

Duffy, Clare. “Indiana Attorney General files lawsuits against TikTok.” CNN, 7 December 2022, Accessed 23 January 2023.

“Home.” YouTube, Accessed 23 January 2023.

“How to Use TikTok’s Parental Controls.” The New York Times, 26 October 2022, Accessed 23 January 2023.

Moric, Lily. “President Biden Joins NCOSE in Calling for Tech Industry Accountability.” NCOSE, 17 January 2023, Accessed 23 January 2023.

Murphy, Samantha. “TikTok may push potentially harmful content to teens within minutes, study finds.” CNN, 15 December 2022, Accessed 23 January 2023.

Nealon, Lina. “Pornhub Just Got Kicked off Instagram, YouTube, and TikTok – Here’s Why.” NCOSE, 20 December 2022, Accessed 23 January 2023.

Olson, Heidi. “Home.” YouTube, Accessed 23 January 2023.

Palmer, Alex W. “How TikTok Became a Diplomatic Crisis.” The New York Times, 20 December 2022, Accessed 23 January 2023.

“Parents Sue TikTok, Saying Children Died After Viewing ‘Blackout Challenge.’” The New York Times, 6 July 2022, Accessed 23 January 2023.

“Teens, Social Media and Technology 2022.” Pew Research Center, 10 August 2022, Accessed 23 January 2023.

“TikTok poses national security and mental health issues: FCC Commissioner.” Fox News, 16 January 2023, Accessed 23 January 2023.

“Too much TikTok is harmful and addicting to kids, Chinese study finds.” ABC7 Los Angeles, 5 April 2022, Accessed 23 January 2023.

“Why experts fear TikTok will exacerbate the mental health crisis among teens.” The Limited Times, 12 January 2023, Accessed 23 January 2023.