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TikTok calls on parents to set up account and link with teens: ‘The digital space is your new normal’

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WATCH ABOVE: From Instagram to TikTok, more and more families are posting a glimpse of their day-to-day lives online. Kendra Slugoski reports on how parents can be their teen's best guides -- making sure they're navigating platforms safely – Nov 2, 2021

Oorbee Roy didn’t want to watch her kids from the sidelines.

When her children started skateboarding, the Toronto, Ont., mother of two picked up a skateboard for the first time a few years ago. She was 43.

“I don’t want to be the mom standing there watching my whole family have fun,” said Roy.

“That was enough of a motivation to get me on a skateboard and that was three years ago and I haven’t looked back!”

Now the family heads to the skate park together and competes in events.

“It’s a great vibe,” said Roy.

Roy said her skateboarding adventures brought her so much joy — she wanted to share it with others.

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She turned to TikTok earlier this year, under the handle @auntyskates and posted videos of her working on her balance to an “epic day” showcasing her family doing a “skate train.”

Roy said the response to her TikTok account and family outings have been phenomenal.

“I really liked the TikTok platform because it promotes storytelling and I wanted share my journey.”

Roy said she keeps it real and genuine on the platform — not using filters.

That message has impacted neighbourhood teen girls. While trick-or-treating at her house this year, Roy said teens told her they loved what she was doing.

“The fact that that resonates with them,” laughed Roy, “I mean, those kids got a little extra candy from me.”

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Tracy Elizabeth, minor safety policy lead for TikTok, is in charge of overseeing all the policies to make sure the platform is safe for young people.

A mother herself, Elizabeth strongly encouraged parents to dig around on the TikTok app and learn how to use it.

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“You really do need to get to know the apps that your teens are using,” said Elizabeth.

“The digital space is your new normal.”

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TikTok is a go-to for teens. It now boasts 1 billion monthly active users and more and more Canadian families are using the app to share their day-to-day — everything from family dances to how-to videos.

While learning a new app may seem daunting, Elizabeth stressed parents and caregivers can still have control.

“Learn the rules, learn the tools and learn how to respond when or if things start to feel a little sticky,” Elizabeth said.

Last year, TikTok introduced Family Pairing, which allows caregivers to link their account with their children and give them more oversight. It includes a restrictive mode — a more “G experience” said Elizabeth — which allows you to control what your child sees on the platform and manages screen time.

Elizabeth said parents are the best guides and can help a teen learn and understand responsible content posting.

“If you or your teen at any point come across something that makes you feel uncomfortable, we have in-app features that you can go ahead and report right away.”

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Elizabeth also pointed to the TikTok Guardian’s Guide for more safety tips and tools.

Account users must be 13 years old.

Those aged 13 to 15 also default to “private by default,” said Elizabeth, which doesn’t allow direct messaging or the ability to host a livestream.

“Please help us by keeping them safe and wait til’ their 13th birthday,” said Elizabeth of signing up a teen for an account.

Roy’s children are still too young for their own account. The skateboarding mom said she only posts videos of her kids when it makes sense and the focus for the family is always on the activity itself.

“It’s just building up their confidence in a separate way,” said Roy, “and skateboarding for us, is really that venue.

“Their confidence is built up a lot, so when they get on TikTok it’s not going to be a place where they feel like they have to find that confidence. They have it already.”

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