Toddlers on TikTok


Caitlin on July 20, 2022

Celebrating your pēpi and sharing what they say and do comes from a place of love. Here at the Office we too love seeing cute videos of kids on social media showing how clever and funny they can be. However, there are risks in sharing videos and images publicly. Amongst all the positivity there is negativity lurking in the shadows - which we know a bit about.

As part of our role to classify content, we receive a large number of submissions from the Police, that contain child sexual abuse material. In that mix of objectionable content we often see pictures of children that look like they have been taken from someone’s social media feed. A shared image or video which has been taken, shared and used by those with a sexual interest in children.

The dark side of social media

We wouldn’t ban or restrict most of these social media images because we classify content based on how it appears not how it is used. Unfortunately, while the thought that someone could take an innocent image of your child and use it for sexual purposes is horrible, it is something that happens right here in Aotearoa and across the globe.

TikTok is a popular place where a lot of users share fun whānau videos.

These videos show kids dancing, singing, making jokes, using adult language (haha), being brutally honest and just being their beautiful selves. We also see amazing content from single parents, same sex couples and expecting parents.

But sometimes when you start reading the comments these videos can dramatically change from cute to scary.

Everyone has an opinion and it might not be nice

A lot of these accounts have toddlers as ‘the star’. With the increasing attention we are seeing more comments that sexualise tamariki and tear them down by the way they look. What society deems to be 'pretty' is being pushed onto our tamariki. For instance, a toddler wearing a crop top is likely to receive more comments about the way they look. Comments can range from 'what they are wearing is inappropriate' to 'they are cute!' or 'mature looking' and even... 'sexy'. Tamariki should never be considered mature or sexy – especially based off the way they look.

Do you like me? Engagement behaviour can be a sign of bad stuff

You've noticed the 'likes' on a video, most users do. The more popular videos or posts can encourage people to want to post more. But what's even more interesting is the amount of 'saves' these videos can have. When videos are being saved more than 10,000 times and the comment section is not a positive place then there is a high chance that these videos are being misused. And by more accounts than you think.

What's the worst that can happen?

Some people think ‘Who cares? What I don’t know won’t hurt me’ and this is true to an extent. However the internet is an ever-evolving place and arguably it’s only getting worse. Mean comments can turn into full-on cyber-bullying and blackmail. Sexualised comments can turn into deep-fakes, court cases, stalking and abuse. Over-sharing information can turn into cat-fishing, hacking, robbery and abduction. And on top of this, it is impacting the digital footprint of your tamariki, not your own.

Practical tips to prevent your child from being exploited online:

  • Only connect with people you know and trust. Accepting random friend requests could put you and your tamariki at risk. Think about usernames. If they have a funny username like penis_13inches they are unlikely to be a friend.
  • Create private groups or group chats. For example, groups made up of immediate family members, where you can share pics instead of posting them on your feed.
  • Ask family and friends to respect your wishes. Be clear and ask that they not post images of your tamariki online without your consent.
  • Check out your privacy and security settings on social media. Restrict what people who you don’t know can see on your page.
  • Schedule times throughout the year to spring clean. Take time out and cull a few of those old acquaintances from your profile.
  • Take note of your followers and what type of engagement your posts are getting. Be wary of the number of likes, saves, shares and comments (and types of comments).
  • When in doubt, don’t post it. You have very little control of what happens to something once you’ve posted it online and not everyone has good intentions.

These tips don’t eliminate the risks but they do minimise them.

Sharing images, videos and stories about tamariki is a beautiful thing but we want to encourage whānau to really think about who they are sharing these with. Especially pictures and videos of our precious tamariki. Becoming an influencer and having your child as the star sounds like fun but there are some serious consequences and safety issues in doing this.

Further reading

For more information check out;

How to make a complaint

Help information

Negative or sensitive content can make us feel not great. It is okay to not be okay. Take a break and talk to your friends or whānau.

Don’t know who to talk to? Free call or text 1737 for more support.

Some good helplines for tamariki and rangatahi are 0800 What's Up, Youthline NZ 0800 376 633 or free text 5626 to contact the Low Down.

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