Millions of teenagers seeking their 15 seconds of fame are flocking to TikTok, but many of their parents are only now learning about the express-yourself video app — often to their dismay.
The social network became the most downloaded on Apple’s App Store in the first half of this year according to market analysis firm Sensor Tower, beating out titans like Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat.
The site, owned by China’s ByteDance, boasted 500 million users as of June following its purchase last year of Musical.ly, which greatly expanded its reach in the US.
Analysts say it filled the void left by Vine, which introduced countless numbers of teens to the creative possibilities of ultrashort videos but failed to find a sustainable business model.
“TikTok capitalises on short-term creative content that other platforms don’t encourage, by their design and community,” said Brian Solis at the US tech advisory firm Altimeter.
“If there is one thing Silicon Valley can learn from Chinese app development, it’s that it is tuned in to viral-as-a-service, meaning that their most popular apps have really been about making content and personas viral and also hyper-engaged,” he said.
Yet critics say its surging popularity among young girls in particular exposes them to caustic comments and other potential abuse by their peers, while offering a choice hunting ground for sexual predators.
The app itself promises a video-sharing community that’s “raw, real and without boundaries” and claims to be appropriate for children aged 12 and older.
Parents aren’t always convinced, given the numbers of young girls suggestively singing along to sexually explicit lyrics which are often degrading to women.
Such videos are the stock in trade of Halia Beamer, an American 13-year-old who has emerged as one of TikTok’s stars, chalking up more than five million followers.