By Jed Horner, TikTok Country Policy Manager, Trust & Safety.

While the safety of teens online is a concern to Aussie parents and guardians, only 41% of them proactively talk with their teens about it when their teen opens a social media account, and over a quarter (28%) believe it's the responsibility of someone else.

A recent TikTok and YouGov survey that sought to understand how parents are approaching online safety with their teens found that cyber bullying (54%) was the number one concern among parents across the country, followed by exposure to dangerous or explicit content (50%), connecting with strangers (49%), data security / privacy (41%) and screen time (37%), making up their top five concerns.

While parents acknowledge the potential issues associated with being online, many are not completely confident (39%) discussing them with their children, rather waiting for a trigger such as teens coming to them with a problem (56%), a change in their mood or habits (57%), seeing something in the news, or information coming from another source such as a friend or social media (57%).

How parents and guardians respond also varies depending on their age, with Gen X and Baby Boomer parents are more likely than Millennial parents to take the biggest responsibility to talk to their children about online safety (73% and 82% compared to 66%), while Millennial parents are more likely to think that the responsibility belongs to someone else (Millennial 33% compared to Gen X 26% and Baby Boomers 16%). Where you live also plays a role, with around half of South Australian parents surveyed (56%) believing that someone else was responsible for talking to their children about online safety, with teachers (35%) coming in at the top of their list.

Other findings include:

  • Only 29% of parents use family pairing/parenting tools to support their teens' online wellbeing, with Dads leading the charge over Mums (32% compared to 25%).
  • 5% of parents said they were not very, or not at all, confident to talk to their children aged 13-17 about their social media usage and need more guidance. An additional 34% said they needed some guidance.
  • One in three parents (33%) have their child's phone passcode.
  • Over a quarter (27%) ask their child to show their profile and social media feed.
  • 25% parents take their child's phone or devices away at certain times of the day.
  • Parents that are savvy social media users themselves, are more confident talking to their teens about social media use, with nearly all (97%) of parents who are TikTok users very or fairly confident in talking to their teens about the topic.

Based on the findings and the responses parents gave to questions about their own online presence and the steps they take to support their teens' online experience, we identified three distinct digital parenting practices:

  • Confident Caregivers are parents who have their own online presence and are generally confident initiating conversations with their teens about online experiences.
  • Aware Advocates know the apps their teens use, but feel slightly reluctant and under-prepared to initiate conversations about online safety and wellbeing with their teens.
  • Sideline Supporters aren't as active online, and avoid initiating conversations with their teens about being online.

To help empower parents and give them a greater level of confidence in this area, TikTok has launched a minor safety campaign and teamed up with ySafe, Australia's leading provider of cyber safety education.

Yasmin London, ySafe Executive Director, said there are a number of things that parents and guardians can do to help their teens have a better online experience. Her top tips for parents are to always follow the A-B-C's:

  • Control Access - through in-app or device settings and Family Pairing.
  • Set Boundaries - set rules, guidelines and expectations.
  • Openly Communicate - stay curious and non judgemental to get the best outcomes.

Reaching parents where they are. It's important that parents feel confident and empowered to have conversations about online safety and that they utilise available tools like Family Pairing. To help with this, we've launched an awareness campaign about how to use Family Pairing, which includes in-app educational content, updating the Guardian's Guide and a national media campaign. Family Pairing allows parents and guardians to link their accounts with those of their teens and set a variety of privacy and safety controls, such as managing screen time limits, setting a teen's account to private, and deciding who can comment on their videos.

Mother of two teenage girls, Jessica Rowe is the face of our media campaign. Jess is a true multi-hyphenate - a respected author, TikTok creator (@craphousewife), former TV host and Member of the Order of Australia for her Mental Health advocacy. The media campaign aims to reach parents and families in cities across the country with useful tips and conversation starters for parents who want to feel better equipped to initiate proactive conversations with their teens on these topics.

Jessica Rowe, said, "As a mother to teenage daughters, it's extremely important for me to have these conversations about online safety. However, understanding how to navigate them can be tricky. That's why the TikTok Guardian's Guide and features such as Family Pairing provide much-needed support to help parents customise the experience for our teens."

Building a safe and responsible platform.

We're always looking at ways to improve our screen time tools with more custom options, most recently introducing new default settings for teen accounts, and expanding Family Pairing with more parental controls.

  • Screen Time Management: Control how long your teen can spend on TikTok each day. This has recently been updated so caregivers can customise the daily screen time limit for their teen.
  • Restricted Mode: Limit the appearance of content that may not be appropriate for all audiences.
  • Direct Messages: Restrict who can send messages to the connected account, or turn off direct messaging completely.
  • Mute Notification: Parents can set a schedule mute notification for their teen.

This work never ends, and we're committed to continuing to seek guidance from experts, parents, and teens as we build towards a future that protects, uplifts, and nurtures teens and families on TikTok.

**All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. YouGov surveyed 1020 parents across Australia (metro and outer metro) with teens (13-17 year olds) between 28th - 7th May 2023. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all Australian parents of children aged 13-17. **