BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — A Buffalo mother is warning all parents about the TikTok App.
She says there is a hidden danger for young children and teenagers who might be on this app.
7 Eyewitness News senior reporter Eileen Buckley spoke with the mom and an IT expert from the University at Buffalo about protecting your family.
At at glance, the TikTok app looks innocent with a lot of short fun video clips of kids showing off their creative side.
But for Buffalo mom Kimberly Viola, this app has meant trauma for her ten year old daughter. viola says her daughter was exposed to sexually explicit material from a predator.
“Harmful and abusive things that she just can't erase from her mind now,” Viola reflected.
Viola says she wants to share her experience to help other parents. She says predators are convincing children they go to their school and should 'friend-them'.
“What's happening are these predators are, once they become on your friends list, they are able to expose themselves to you,” explained Viola. “So we had a predator that was able to encourage my daughter and actually show my daughter self-inflicting harmful images, but also encourage her on a sexual platform.”
“This is kind of an open problem that society is going to have to figure out,” remarked Oliver Kennedy, associate professor, UB’s Department of Computer Science and Engineering.
Kennedy says there are a number of websites found on Mozilla to guide parents thru privacy settings. But Kennedy says the simplest thing you is find out what your kids are downloading and communicate with them.
“Talk to your kids. Spend time with them. When they want to install something on their phone, talk to them,” Kennedy said.
Viola says unfortunately her daughter now suffers from anxiety. It breaks this mother's heart.
“We are seeking counseling, but the effects have now changed her. She has nightmares. She's scared someone's out to get her,” Viola said tearfully.
The TikTok privacy rules say the app is intended for those 13-years and older. It's privacy rules were updated last month, January 2020, stating it is quote "committed to protecting the privacy of children."