HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — TikTok is reportedly the most downloaded free app in the Apple store in the United States. Given its popularity with kids, it can also be a target for predators.
TikTok has already paid a record $5.7 million fine for not having enough safeguards in place for children.
One parent who wished to remain anonymous said there are still dangers you need to know about.
“They are like vultures waiting for their next meal,” the parent told ABC27.
He is known as the Reaper on TikTok, a self-proclaimed watchdog who goes online to see who is watching your kids. He is part of a group that sometimes creates fake accounts of young girls to see who bites.
He reached out to ABC27 News when he says his group “stung” a local guy.
“He lives in Cumberland County,” the Reaper said.
The Reaper said he started watching the 30-something-year-old man when he noticed he was making inappropriate comments on young girls’ TikTok videos about the size of his penis.
A member of the group created a fake account, posing as a 15-year-old girl and they said the Cumberland County man jumped on immediately.
“Within 15 minutes. That quick,” the Reaper said.
He said the man sent his cell number to the fake 15-year-old in the private message feature of TikTok, then started a text message thread. In the thread, the man acknowledges “the girl” is 15.
The conversation started out innocently enough, but he soon asked if they could exchange pictures. The thread ends with him sending a picture of a penis.
TikTok lets users who are supposed to be at least 13 years old watch and create short video clips. Some accounts have the option to go live to the app’s reported 500 million users, meaning adults around the world can comment on your kid’s video.
“I have seen grown men telling girls to take their tops off or do naked cartwheels, just some of the most nasty stuff I’ve ever heard,” the Reaper said.
There is another danger — if your kid allows someone to follow them on TikTok, that person can privately message them and that’s where phone numbers or emails can be exchanged. That could lead to private conversations off the app.
ABC27 contacted the police department where the Cumberland County man lives. Police said they were alerted, but cannot press charges under the current law because the 15-year-old wasn’t real and the sting wasn’t done by a law enforcement agency.
While no legal action could be taken, the Reaper said after he confronted the man on TikTok, the man unfollowed several young girls’ accounts on the app.
ABC27 reached out to TikTok and a representative provided several resources to help parents protect their kids. It requires changing settings in the app that can make your kid’s account private and even give you the option to limit who can comment on your kids’ videos.