Last night I watched a TikTok Live stream after midnight.
The young girl was sitting in the dark.
She seemed anxious and fidgety, but determined to stay there.
She only had 11 people watching, but they were patient and determined as she constantly adjusted her hair and read the questions they asked and answered them.
I am not sure how long she had been there before I arrived.
I looked at her account set up and there was no reference to where she lived, her age or her last name.
Within the 5 minutes that I watched I found out:
- The name she had on her account was a shortened version of the real thing
- Her current age and the month she will be older
- An approximate area that she lives in
More interesting though was the method that the people talking to her used to get this information and the patience and persistence that they were displaying.
Nothing was asked directly. Each piece of information was asked for in tiny pieces, followed up a few questions later by the next part they required.
4 questions the young lady was asked:
- How old are you?
- So, is that your age now?
- When do you turn **?
- My birthday is in that month also! What date are you?
Clearly, they wanted to know her birth date. …interestingly it wasn’t the same person asking all the questions.
Within the 11 people watching there seemed to be 3 main players.
My guess is they were working together.
Other questions she was asked:
- “What time is it where you are?” She answered after squinting into her computer screen. (I immediately said to my husband “what time is it?” He answered and I said “she’s on the east coast of Australia”
- A minute later she was asked by a different one of the 3 main players I’ve mentioned “Have you been to Australia? I have! I love Australia…” (she answered really quietly, checking over her shoulder to make sure no one in her home was listening and said “well actually I am lucky cos that’s actually where I live!)
- The banter slowed for a bit and went to other things and then one of the other viewers asked “have you been to Brisbane? Brisbane is really pretty!” (she answered that she sometimes catches the train to Brisbane, which would indicate that she possibly lives within an hour or so of Brisbane but not actually in Brisbane.)
Again, it was really obvious that they wanted to know where she was. …and by the time I shut down I knew it was one of two places.
It seemed that she wasn’t supposed to be using her devices at that time of night as she was nervous that she would wake someone else.
Therefore, is could possibly be assumed:
- she’s happy to bend the rules; &
- keep secrets; and
- there is someone that she’s worried will find out what she’s doing
Knowing who a child/teen is hiding things from can be used by online predators to manipulate them into doing things they wouldn’t be comfortable doing. “Do this or I’ll tell you mum that you blah blah…”
By the time the viewers were asking about Brisbane one of the main players (an account that has said they were 27) was starting to tell her she was boring and that he was losing interest.
Her response to this was visual. She read his comments out loud and then looked rattled and anxiously tried to keep his interest.
She started promising excitement in her next live stream “when (she) get(s) to her next goal” for how many followers she has on her account.
She was the perfect target for someone wishing to exploit.
She would clearly be easily manipulated and willing to overdeliver for the outcome of desired followers she was after.
The other two main accounts talking to her said that they were 10 and 8 years old.
Neither account looked to me to be run by children when I tapped to have a look at their profiles and their typed words were broken English rather than a child’s misspelled words.
…but our girl wouldn’t know what the accounts looked like inside as she was focused on staying in the live stream …not checking who she was speaking to.
She was taking them on face-value and talking to them in a way that indicated she hoped to be a role model for them.
This morning I spent another 5 minutes having a closer look at her account to see whether she cared about giving away personal info.
What I learnt was:
- She seems to be trying to keep personal information off her account. I say this because the set up of her TikTok account doesn’t give away anything other than a nickname at a glance.
- From her parent’s perspective they would think she was set up safely, if they were to look at the profile. (no surname on the TikTok account, no bio and her visible posts don’t have obviously personal info in them – her parents would have to look deeper and know what they were looking for to see that there was actually a lot of info)
- Her Instagram account was accessible (but could be easily overlooked by a non-techy parent)
- Her Instagram account was also set up without a surname or reference to where she was…
- BUT! …she had a link in her bio to a PayPal account, that removing a few strategically placed letters I easily worked out her surname.
- 2 minutes later I knew both parent’s names, the suburb she lives in, her school, her brother’s name, where they both play sport and their faith.
This young lady was 15.
It is not only CHILDREN that are vulnerable online, but your teens also.
We need to give our children more screen time at the moment… but mum and dad… PLEASE TAKE THE DEVICES AWAY AT NIGHT and talk to them every single day about practicing safer internet use.
Here’s some things you can look for:
- Attached accounts (on TikTok look for usernames of other accounts in the bio or the Instagram or YouTube icon on the profile)
- Challenges that they are competing in (found by looking at the hashtags, song choice or voiceovers being used)
- Watch their videos. All of them. Right through.
- Devices can stay on the kitchen bench at night time. You will find many other advantages to this being a rule, such as your child may actually sleep. They will be nicer humans. …and much much more.
- If your child has a payment option on any of their accounts and they aren’t selling scrunchies – ask why. …and push it.