That’s a question many parents are asking themselves as media coverage of the shooting death of a TikTok star’s stalker in Florida intensifies discussions around children’s safety online.
Fifteen-year-old Ava Majury almost paid the ultimate price when an obsessed TikTok fan turned up at her family home last July and attempted to blast through the front door with a shotgun.
The weapon initially jammed and the 18-year-old gunman Eric Rohan Justin was chased off by Ava’s father, but the stalker returned a short time later.
Fearing for his family’s life, Rob Majury – a retired police lieutenant – shot Justin dead.
But despite the terrifying ordeal Ava remains active on TikTok, where she has over 1 million followers across her three accounts and reportedly attracts up to $150,000 from sponsors to promote their products.
And her parents approve.
Ava’s father told the media that her TikTok account, which she created aged just 13 during lockdown in 2020, had become “such a big part of her that to take it away would have been hard.”
Ava’s mother, Kim Majury, added: “We chose what’s best for our family. We know there are going to be two sides, and some people won’t understand.″
A ‘cautionary tale’?
But now Ava’s coming forward saying she’s in fear of her life after another alleged stalker filmed himself practicing at a gun range just months after Justin tried to kill her.
“She doesn’t feel comfortable living life as a normal teen,” Ava’s spokesperson Taylor Pearson said. “The family has moved address and now Ava is doing virtual learning at home.”
“They’re having a very difficult time. But we really want to focus on the positives and use this incident as a lesson for others, a cautionary tale.
“We also want to put out the message that Ava’s behavior shouldn’t have to change because of one or two bad actors.”
So with social media (and its dangers) here to stay, how do we strike a balance between allowing our children the freedom to do their own thing online, while keeping them safe from predators?
TikTok security tips for families with kids
Finding that balance isn’t easy, and will likely require some trial and error.
But Kapersky, a global leader in cybersecurity, shared some tips for on keeping kids safe from predators on TikTok that are a helpful starting point for concerned parents.
- Make sure your kid’s account is set to private: This ensures that anyone who doesn’t know your child won’t be able to see their content. Luckily the majority of Gen Zs (57%) have set their TikTok account to private, according to our What Gen Z Actually Do Online report.
- Talk about what is safe to share on TikTok: Have a conversation with your kid about what’s appropriate to share on the app before they create their TikTok account (and repeat as necessary). Remind them to never give out identifying or private information (like their full name, address, or date of birth).
- Speak with your kids about the dangers of connecting with strangers on the Internet: Remind your kids how easy it is for someone to be dishonest over the Internet. Teach them to only connect with friends on TikTok, and discourage them from communicating or connecting with any strangers on the app. This minimises the risk of them connecting with someone who is out to harm children.
- Teach your child how to report users: Encourage your kid to report users who do something inappropriate or considered “bullying” on TikTok. By reporting a problem, your child can let the appropriate authorities know that they should take action against a dangerous user.
- Make yourself open: At the end of the day, there are many security risks that your child can encounter using TikTok. While there are many precautions you can take, the best way to keep your child safe is by letting them know that they can come to you with any fears or concerns that come up for them when using TikTok. It also helps to remind them that they won’t get in trouble for anything they do or become afraid of, you’re only there to serve as a support, or to help them get out of a dangerous situation should they encounter one.
Source: Kapersky Resource Centre