In response to rising threats, some families are going as far as setting up hard rules in exchange for internet access. But other parents continue to let their kids browse unsupervised in spite of the dangers. And danger is exactly what kids are facing on the web — even in apps that were once thought to be safe. One of these apps, a popular video and song-sharing platform, was recently revealed to be hosting accounts that impersonate other users. These copycats then lure their followers off the platform where they can be scammed out of money or exposed to adult content! Here’s what you need to know about these tricky scams that might be targeting your kids.

TikTok home to tons of adult-themed porn scams

A recent 50-page report from cybersecurity researchers at Tenable revealed that the popular short-video and sing-a-long platform Tik Tok is infested with accounts that impersonate other users for financial gain. Unlike many of its contemporaries, TikTok has enjoyed a meteoric rise to success in a short amount of time and has found a massive audience with children and young adults that enjoy singing, dancing, and expressing themselves to the platform’s community. Unfortunately, these scams come at a time when children are more vulnerable than ever on the web — and TikTok is no exception to the danger. Many of these scam accounts function by impersonating a popular TikTok personality in order to gain followers. After a period of time, the copycat will inform its followers that it will start producing “premium” content on another platform like Snapchat or an adult dating website, and advise them to pay a subscription fee in order to gain access.

How are these scammers doing this? Why?

A large number of these impostor accounts were found to have stolen videos from “influencers” and other well-known users. Another segment took the approach of uploading “soft” adult-themed clips like women dancing provocatively or working out. All of them, however, eventually lead users — including their underage followers — to other platforms where they’re exposed to ads, spam, and even more adult-themed imagery. Many of the third-party sites feature monetized ads, which suggests financial incentives for the scams beyond simply tricking users into signing up for “premium content.” Just having followers visit a scam site is enough to net the perpetrators some serious coin.

How can I keep my kids safe on TikTok

It’s an inconvenient truth to be sure, but kids can’t be relied upon to self-moderate in today’s internet climate. Even the most responsible child may find themselves face to face with a scammer that knows how to game the system. That kid may be exposed to content that you don’t approve — regardless of whether they want to be or not. That’s why taking time to advise your children about online safety is of the utmost importance to ensure that their browsing time is fun, safe, and reasonable. One way you can set your kids up for success on the web is to introduce them to our Tech Safety Contract for Kids. Not only does it outline rules for sensible internet use, but it also explains the potential dangers kids face on the internet. It even includes some go-to solutions to keep them out of harm’s way when faced with a problem like bullies or strangers. Ultimately, it’s a parent’s job to keep kids safe on the internet. As they grow up in today’s digital world, your kids are bound to learn basic “online street-smarts,” but how quickly they learn and how early they start depends upon your guidance. But keep this in mind: An internet savvy child will grow into an internet savvy adult. That’s a gift that’s bound to keep on giving.