Social media surveillance

My kids love TikTok! Should I care?

If you don't want your children to be the product of today's free online services, you definitely should.

  • By Roy-Andre
October 23rd, 2019

Think of it like this …

Your 8-year daughter is walking around by herself in an apparently fantastic amusement-park far away, in a town you have never heard of, in China or rural Russia.

There is no entrance-fee to the park. Absolutely everything is free. From the candy to all the hundreds of attractions.

The park is made out of glitter and all the colors the rainbow can possibly produce, with funny and entertaining music being played over and over.

Children playing in a fantasy amusement park. Photo by Oneisha Lee on Unsplash

The park is endless in size, and the further into the park she goes the more fun she discover.

The children don’t even need to queue up for the various attractions. Everything is available instantly.

It is like a separate fantasy-universe to her.

You daughter really enjoys it in the park, along with thousands of other kids, dancing around and playing like they were superstars in Charlie's Chocolate factory.

She feels great!


At the same time, a gigantic Corporation with tens of thousands of workers monitors every single step of your daughter's moves in the park, by using highly secret artificial intelligence and machine learning, super-advanced cameras, microphones and hundreds of all kinds of other sensors.

The Corporation analyzes millions of bits and pieces of data to build up a perfect model of your daughter. Photo by Taylor Vick on Unsplash

Everything that is being said. What clothes she is wearing. Her music taste. Her motion. If she is happy. Sad. Anxious. Scared. Her face expression is being analyzed every step of her way through the park wherever she puts her feet.

Just hours after entering the park, the Corporation knows about everything there is to know about your daughter.

Her age. Gender. Interests. Exact home location. Birthday. Eye-color. Her friends. Even her friends you didn't know about. What clothes she likes. Her favorite color. Even her both good- and more negative habits are being crawled, analyzed and preserved, indefinitely.

Your daughter still play around in the park like everything is normal.

Still, she feels great!


The amusement-park is not like a prison. She can leave anytime she wants.

And, at some times, she feels something isn't right, and wants to leave the park.

Yet still, every time, shortly after she decides to leave the park, she gets this feeling of wanting to return back in.

What happens is she gets this fear of missing out. Fear of not being among the first of her friends to discover if there are new attractions to play with, new friends to get to know, or just something new to discover.

- What if one of my friends discovers a new activity and I don’t even know about it, becomes one of her biggest fears.

Girl with the fear of missing out. Photo by Olaia Irigoien on Unsplash

As the artificial intelligence monitoring your daughter has now picked up signals she more frequently wants to leave the park, its advanced systems have started to move her favorite attractions towards the entrance-area of the park, so she doesn't need to walk long to get to it, so everything becomes even more accessible for her.

Even better, all the other things she loves in the park, from candy to background music, is optimized for her taste, right from the start of each visit.

She is still feeling great.


At the same time, the Corporation's advanced computer network has been working hard in the background to built up a perfect data-model of your daughter by using all the millions of bits and pieces of information gathered about her just over the last few days and weeks.

She is further more being matched up with other kids from its gigantic database of hundreds of millions of other children who has visited the park over the years.

All this lets the Corporation target also other people that share the same interest, location, mood or taste as her, anywhere in the world they operate.


What your daughter doesn't know, however, is that she has now become the product of the Corporation.

A product worth thousands of dollar, making its founders and shareholders billionaires.

In return, along with giving away vast amount of precious time of her life, all your daughter gets back from the Corporation is a sense of happiness. However, the pursue of happiness in social media force us to set a higher standard of our happiness than we can normally achieve, causing discontent and actually lowered happiness as our current state falls short of the pursued happiness we dream of.

What is the story supposed to represent?

The story is supposed to represent how most social media organizations and tech corporations operate, with free services very strategically filled with highly targeted ads, and where many sell the private data to other corporations to use for whatever reason they find useful.

“The Corporation” is just a fictive name to present any of the large corporations working like this, from Facebook to Tiktok to FaceApp.

This sounds extremely scary! The story doesn't represent how it actually works, right?

No, of course not. The story only represents what me as one single person knows. These corporations of course knows- and not least does way more than neither me nor you possibly can imagine, rest assured.

When we as parents come to the conclusion to deny our children from using these services, it becomes extremely important that we sit down with them in quiet and peace, and explain to them how these services actually works and what harm they can generate, both now and in years ahead into the future, so they themselves understands the reason behind our decision.

What is Tiktok, and why should my kids not use it specifically?

Tiktok is free social app for creating and sharing small video footages, targeted for children and youth. The name of the company behind the app is ByteDance, which is a large Chinese corporation with thousands of employees, and which is valued at over $80 billion USD, with around one billion daily active users. ByteDance/Tiktok is also one of the world's most advanced Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning corporations, being able to analyze and identify patterns in data we couldn't possible imagine.

Tiktok usage

Why should my kids not use Tiktok? Everyone using Tiktok becomes the product of the service within minutes of use. Much worse, just as an example out of thousands of others, Tiktok has millions of videos taken by young girls recording when imitating sexy dances (which is a very common and normal user-scenario in Tiktok) often in skimpy clothes, and with other users asking them in the video comments to continue making such videos, saying they're sexy or asking for their Snapchat user, as Tiktok doesn't allow for to send videos or images via direct messaging within its own app.

What- and who lays behind these comments and requests one can just imagine.

Some more examples of videos on Tiktok: is FaceApp, and why should my kids not use it specifically?

FaceApp is another very popular social media app, which lets you very easily upload an image of you or someone else, whereas FaceApp analyzes your uploaded picture and for example generates an alternative picture of how you could look like in for example 20–30 years time. While Tiktok is Chinese-based, FaceApp is made by a rather small Russian company; Wireless Lab.

Why should my kids not use FaceApp? FaceApp has received tons of criticism in terms of privacy of the user data in many ways. For example, when upload a picture of let's say you or a close family member, you grant FaceApp full rights to use the picture for whatever reason they want to, for lifetime. One worst case scenario then is that the uploaded picture of your daughter can be sold whoever wants to use it, for advertisement or something else, either tomorrow or some day into the far future.

What about Facebook?

Facebook has received an enormous amount of criticism on its lack of privacy over many years, both from governments around the world to privacy concern organizations.

Keep in mind the one and only goal of Facebook (and all other social media platforms) is to try to keep the user on the platform as long as possible, just like the Corporation in the amusement-park.

Keep in mind the one and only goal of Facebook (and all other social media platforms) is to try to keep the user on the platform as long as possible, just like the Corporation in the amusement-park.

Although Facebook has improved over the last years, there are for example still way too many content elements showing violence and other very negatively loaded types of content that tend to trigger people to wanna see more, which is their ultimate goal.

Should my kids not use Facebook? Facebook has an age-control of 13 years (which of course is easy to bypass). At the same time, Facebook isn't moving “fast enough” for today's kids, and so they most likely don't want to be there anyway.

The Facebook-owned messaging service Messenger is still pretty harmless, and is something most should be able to use without too much to worry about.

So, should I deny my kids from using apps like Tiktok and FaceApp?

Most of us as parents will come to the conclusion that “- Well, my children are very reasonable, and will handle these services perfectly fine.”, which might very well be right.

Yet still, they will definitely be a product of the Corporation of lifetime as soon as they start using the service for their very first time.

We as parents should definitely think twice before allowing our children to use many of these apps and services.

What would you do yourself?

As a father of three children growing up with thousands of “amusement-parks” all around us, my most important task has been to clearly and over time talk with them about the pros and cons of everything relevant in this new digital world, so they can make these decisions themselves, by explaining to them how the free services actually works, among other things.

Our children gets their own smartphone on their 10th birthday, whereas we over the period of the next three years sit down and decides together for each app or service they want to have installed.

As our smartphone has become our most valuable and precious device in life, it is very odd to see how many of us don't care at all what we install onto it.

This way they learn how to be self-critical about what they put onto their phone from the very first time.

When they are 13 years, they will be allowed to decide all by themselves.

During this “on-boarding into the digital world” between 10 and 13 years old, they will hopefully be as reasonable that they manage to decide themselves, with me just briefly overseeing them from time to time.

Giving our children a phone before they are 10 years allows for us to call them home for dinner and stuff. How would you handle that?

First and foremost; learning our children how to read the clock on the wristband, and further more keep track of it — and to know by simply looking at it regularly to understand by themselves when it's time to get home.

Yet still, if you still want the possibility of being able to call or text them, simply buy a cheap $9 non-smartphone (yes, those good old ever-lasting Nokia-phones still exists) with a cheap subscription, and you're good to go.

But, still, some of her friends received a fancy iPhone smartphone when they were eight years old. How shall I explain that?

Simply talk with them about it. Talk with your children and explain they really do not need a Porsche (cause that's what the iPhone-brand basically is). 8-year old children are still.. well, children, and thus still have at least a few years left to simply play around in the physical world. Also children are perfectly fine with just being bored from time to time, which makes their brain re-charge among tons of other positive things.

Final question; why didn't my daughter want to just leave the park when she felt something was wrong?

There are two scientifically documented reasons for this.

1 — The amusement-park triggered the dopamine levels in her brain to rise.
All social media has built-in tons of “rewarding functionality”. In our brain, when receiving a reward of any kind, an addictive substance of dopamine gets activated, causing the dopamine levels to rise. The brain then interprets and associates this reward with a positive reinforcement. The rise of dopamine is addictive, causing the person to seek more and more of it, to get more of that dopamine rise. This is exactly what happens when people take drugs, alcohol or are gambling

Watch the below video where Simon Sinek explains this Dopamine does:

2 — FOMO. Fear Of Missing Out.
This is something that is naturally built into the human DNA. We don't want to be kept out, not knowing what's going on, and this is something the social media corporations use to its full advantage.


So, would you allow your children access to all social media — or would you be more engaged in what they do online?

All social media are highly addictive. Like drugs. Photo by Marc Schaefer on Unsplash