Apple

A beginner’s guide to TikTok

It’s 2020. Why aren’t you on TikTok yet?  OK, there are some very valid reasons to avoid using the app, including the extensive user data collection that nearly every social media app employs. But if you’re getting your TikTok content as reposts of tweets on Instagram meme accounts, it might be time to go straight…

It’s 2020. Why aren’t you on TikTok yet? 

OK, there are some very valid reasons to avoid using the app, including the extensive user data collection that nearly every social media app employs. But if you’re getting your TikTok content as reposts of tweets on Instagram meme accounts, it might be time to go straight to the source and download the TikTok app yourself. 

Here’s a handy guide on how to use TikTok for anyone just getting started on the social media platform. 

Make an account

You can find the TikTok app on the App Store and on Google Play. 

The first thing you’ll see when you open TikTok is its infamous For You Page.

You don’t really need an account to use TikTok, but if you want to be able to mold your For You Page to start showing you content, well, for you, you’ll have to make an account. Until then, the landing page will just show you the most popular videos at the moment.

To make an account, go to the “Me” tab in the far bottom right corner of the screen. There, TikTok will prompt you to sign up with your phone or email. You can also link your account through Facebook, Apple, Google, Twitter, and Instagram. 

A beginner's guide to TikTok

Image: screenshot via tiktok

A beginner's guide to TikTok

Image: screenshot via tiktok

Once you create your account, you’re on your way to becoming a TikTok influencer. The app will assign you a generated username, such as user9876543, but you can change your username, profile photo, bio, and link your TikTok account to your other social accounts under “Edit Profile” in the “Me” tab. 

The For You Page 

Now that you’re an official TikTok user, let’s go back to the For You Page.

As you engage with the video clips on the page more, it’ll shape to your interests over time. The more you like, share, comment, or linger on a certain kind of TikTok video, the more of that content the app will show you. 

Your For You Page will probably be pretty generic for your first few days on the platform. To get to the content that appeals to your niche interests, you’ll have to either specifically search out the kind of content you like in the search bar under the “Discover” tab, or swipe through the For You Page and engage with the videos you enjoy. 

WATCH: Is TikTok secretly a dating app?

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TikTok kept the details of its For You Page under wraps until this year, when it released information about it in an effort to be more transparent after the U.S. government raised concerns over the app’s privacy. According to TikTok, the For You Page first shows content to a small group of users. If they interact favorably — liking, sharing, commenting, or even watching the video in its entirety instead of just swiping — the app will show that video to a larger group. If that group interacts favorably, the app will show the video to an even larger group. That continues until the video is certifiably viral. 

Liking, Commenting, and Sharing

To interact with a TikTok video you like that you want to see more of, engage with the icons on the right hand side of the screen. The icons are relatively intuitive. From top to bottom, they’re “Follow,” “Like,” “Comment,” “Share,” and “Sound.” 

A beginner's guide to TikTok

Image: tiktok / bellapoarch

If you want to see more content from a specific TikTok creator, hit that follow button. If you just want to show your support, like a video. If you want to share a TikTok video with friends, tap “Share.” 

When you tap “Share” the app will prompt you to either send it to your mutuals — someone you follow who follows you back — through TikTok’s internal DM feature, copy the link, or share it directly with your followers on your linked social media accounts (like Instagram and Twitter).

You can also save the video directly to your phone, use the effect yourself, duet the video (more about that in a moment), or bookmark it to your Favorites. If you’d like to avoid seeing duets of a certain video, tap “Not Interested.” You can also report a TikTok video if you don’t think it adheres to the app’s Community Guidelines.

A beginner's guide to TikTok

Image: tiktok / bellapoarch

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Apple

Best parental control apps for monitoring your kid’s activity on Android devices

The security battle between iOS and Android tightens each time an operating system update comes out. Apple has held the lead for years — and though the gap is expected to close with the 2020 release of Android 11 and its heightened privacy measures, iOS 14’s release will be right on its heels. But one…

The security battle between iOS and Android tightens each time an operating system update comes out. Apple has held the lead for years — and though the gap is expected to close with the 2020 release of Android 11 and its heightened privacy measures, iOS 14’s release will be right on its heels.

But one aspect of cyber safety remains Android’s turf: Cooperating with parental control apps.

These apps, which usually require access to a phone’s location, contacts, browsing history, and call and text history, are occasionally hindered by Apple’s more strict app restrictions (like a 2019 policy change that slashed functionality on a handful of apps). Many parental control apps that don’t play well with iOS (like Qustodio) have no problem running their full suite of features on Android’s flexible OS, giving families who prefer Samsung and Google phones over iPhones, or Fire Tablets and Galaxy Tabs over iPads, a more robust approach device monitoring.

On the same beat, some brands of parental control software that work on desktops, laptops, and mobile devices aren’t able to be downloaded onto Macs (like Norton) — an obvious restriction for pro-Apple families who want to use the same parental control software on a kid’s Phone and MacBook. The content of Google’s RCS text messages are easier to log with an app than with iMessage, but parents can probably see iMessages if they share an Apple ID with their kid.

How are parental control apps different from Google Play controls?

Most smartphones are equipped with some sort of in-house parental controls. Android’s version are in the Google Play settings. These quick, laid back starter controls can act as a trial run for how kids will respond to parent-supervised phone or tablet usage. For kids who just need a few loose boundaries to ensure that their apps and movies are age-appropriate, the Google Play settings that limit content to your specified highest rating (like T for Teen or PG-13) could suffice. 

But Google Play’s options won’t be comprehensive enough for a lot of people. They don’t touch on screen time, real-time web filtering, blocking of specific websites or apps, recurring geofencing, or school, homework, or bedtime schedules. Unless you’re all registered through Google Family Link (a separately-downloaded parental control app from Google — more on that below), parents can’t tailor settings from their own phone or get notifications about suspicious activity. 

Geofencing is great for parents juggling the schedules of multiple children

A parental control app can also help keep tabs on your kid when they’re away from home. Though most have a basic “Where’s my child?” GPS function, only a select few software options offer geofencing. This location-based service lets you set up virtual boundaries around where a child should or shouldn’t be, as well as a specific time that the child should be there. Let’s say that your child goes straight from school to a sports practice three times a week. The geofencing feature will monitor their phone’s location and will alert you if your child doesn’t show up to the scheduled area on time, and some even offer an SOS button for emergency situations. Teenagers may even enjoy not being bombarded with “Where are you?” texts.

Geofencing can also be used to monitor web time when your child is in a designated location. For instance, many parents like to disable games or social media apps during school.

What is the best parental control app for Android?

Most decent apps can set limits on screen time, send an activity report of which apps are used the most, and let parents block or delete sketchy or distracting apps. From there, criteria for an app that works for your family depends on nuances. Older kids may not need hardcore web filtering or strict monitoring of the numbers that text and call them, while younger kids who don’t text or go anywhere by themselves will probably require reliable geofencing and parental approval of apps they try to download.

If you’ve found that the phone or tablet works well as a discipline tactic, an app with an ad-hoc locking or unlocking feature is a must. With a single toggle, parents can reward kids with free time outside of the daily schedule or automatically lock certain apps (or the whole device) for a timeout. 

Parents who are concerned about specific apps like WhatsApp or TikTok need to ensure that the chosen parental control app allows customized downloads rather than basing restrictions on a maturity rating alone.

You should probably tell your kid that you’re watching their device

There’s a fine line between responsibly monitoring your child’s device and invading their privacy. Wanting to keep tabs on their behavior isn’t being too strict, especially if it’s their first time having their own device: , a pediatrician who sees patients with autism, ADHD, and developmental delays, told Mashable’s Rebecca Ruiz that taking an active role in what kids consume online and tailoring screen time rules to their specific needs is a critical strategy — no matter what age.

Letting them in on the decision could lessen the likelihood of rebelling or trying to find loopholes in the app, and letting them help decide the limits might make them more open to having these guidelines in the first place. Instead of confiscating their phone as a means of screen time control, devise a mutually agreed upon schedule for when texting, social media, or games are allowed, and when their device needs to lock for uninterrupted learning at school, homework, or falling asleep. If you’re worried about smothering them, consider an option that provides warnings about screen time instead of immediately locking the device, or an option that lets them request extra time or access to a site that they feel is wrongfully blocked. If they use their phone to play sleep music, an app that lets you customize which apps are restricted at night lets your kid keep their routine intact. 

Here are the best parental control apps for Android in 2020:

Best Google Play reviews

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Image: mashable photo composite

The Good

Straightforward pricing • Restricts games but leaves reading apps open before bed • Restricts everything but educational apps during school • Ad-hoc Pause and Play mode • Task-reward system

The Bad

Limited to one device per child • Can’t do much with text or call contacts

The Bottom Line

Parents who left reviews were impressed with the level of customization in the app blocker.

Screen Time

A hidden gem of an app that’s great for situation-based app blocking and runs smoothly.

  • Free version: Yes
  • Screen Time Premium: $6.99/month
See Details

Setting your kid loose with their own phone or tablet is no trivial matter. Parents are rightfully critical of a parental control app’s safety features and ease of use — and this skepticism makes itself known in the review section of the Google Play Store. If you want an app that you know that thousands of other parents trust, check out Screen Time: the parental control app with a 4.1 out of 5 star rating from over 45,000 reviewers.
Though it may not pop up in a quick Google search for best parental control apps, Screen Time’s top tier ranking on the app store proves its reliability. It doesn’t seem to fall prey to the common complaints like a laggy design or inflexible controls that make life harder rather than easier. 
If you want to do more than monitoring app usage or web history, paying for Premium is a must. Customizable app blockers give kids some leeway while still ensuring that they aren’t distracted at the wrong times: Lock everything but educational apps at school and

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Apple

Uneasy about your kid’s iPhone obsession? These apps can help.

Forget whatever you put on your holiday or birthday list when you were little — Gen Z kids will start asking for an iPhone as soon as they’ve mastered their parents’ touch screen. It doesn’t matter what age your kid is: Whether it’s their very first phone or their fifth, parents are going to worry about…

Forget whatever you put on your holiday or birthday list when you were little — Gen Z kids will start asking for an iPhone as soon as they’ve mastered their parents’ touch screen.

It doesn’t matter what age your kid is: Whether it’s their very first phone or their fifth, parents are going to worry about what’s behind that scrolling and tapping. Parental control apps have come to be a convenient compromise between kids who really don’t want to hand over their phone and parents who really don’t want to have to confiscate it. 

How do parental control apps work?

At their core, parental control software lets you monitor your child’s phone, tablet, or computer remotely. Corresponding apps are downloaded both on the parent’s device and on the child’s device. From there, parents can do anything from monitor internet searches and browsing history, block inappropriate or distracting apps, or limit screen time all together. It’s a less invasive and more respectful method than physically snooping through their phone or computer — and when kids know that their activity is being watched or managed, good habits might stick better.

Worries of kids turning into technology zombies certainly aren’t new, but 2020’s mass migration to virtual learning and more parents staying home pushed the issue: How can I *safely* plop my kid in front of a tablet for half an hour so that I can do something without interruptions? You’re pretty much in the clear as long as you choose a high-quality children’s show. Instead of hoping that they don’t figure out how to search on Netflix, parental control apps can disable everything but educational and age-appropriate content altogether. 

Apple’s Screen Time vs. third party parental control apps

A 2019 sweep of third-party parental control apps on the App Store severely curbed functionality on some of the most popular downloads. Around the same time, in response to accusations that its devices were too addictive, Apple unveiled Screen Time: An iOS-specific screen time tracker that parents could utilize to mitigate their child’s usage. Apple claimed that the competitors put individuals’ privacy at risk, though Apple does like to do things the Apple way — but we digress.

The restrictions have all but killed apps like OurPact, Famisafe, and Qustodio (hence the onslaught of one-star reviews from the past year). Many are still available to download but aren’t as holistic as they are on Android.

Kaspersky Lab, which has a feature that lets you know if stalkerware has found its way to your phone, also isn’t available on iOS — but that’s because it’s already harder for hackers to install such malware on iPhones. This is the same reason that many parents choose a Chromebook as their kid’s laptop.

The controls baked into iOS will suffice for a lot of people. They can set screen time limits, block certain apps and websites, or restrict new downloads or things with an explicit content rating altogether. But Screen Time becomes useless pretty quickly if the parent or child has an Android, if the parent and child share a device, or if kids crack the code on how to get around limits that have been set — that happened almost immediately.

Which parental control apps work best on iPhones?

Families with multiple kids, people sharing one device, or a hectic schedule that would benefit from geofencing — a GPS feature that blocks certain apps when your kid is within a certain geographical area or alerts you when your kid leaves a certain geographical area, like school or sports practice — might just need a little more oomph.

Fortunately, whether they somehow flew under the radar of Apple’s cutbacks or debuted in the App Store later and weren’t affected, there are still a handful of solid parental control apps to choose from. Most cover the basics: setting time limits or recurring schedules, sending activity reports of which apps are used the most, blocking or deleting sketchy or distracting apps. A few offer more hardcore measures like geofencing or call, text, and contact monitoring.

Use parental controls as a safety tool, not a spying tool

Some parents suggest downloading one of these apps on your kid’s phone without telling them. Here’s our take: Don’t do that. We’d be remiss to omit the possibility of loopholes for kids to look for if they know the app is there, but monitoring their activity behind their back feels like rebellion or resentment waiting to happen. Depending on how much of the content on your child’s device that an app can see, it could quickly become a breach of privacy.

Instead, try to agree on a screen time routine and a list of apps and websites that are appropriate. Letting them in on the process can build trust rather than diminish it. Plus, their understanding of why TikTok and Instagram are blocked during homework hours or at bedtime can help them learn a solid set of cyber safety habits.

Here are the best parental control apps for iPhone in 2020:

Your best bet

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Image: mashable photo composite

The Good

Top-notch web filtering • Social media and TikTok feed filtering • Friendly and easy to understand on the child’s end • App guides you through the installation process • 30-day log of location history, web history, and screen time

The Bad

No call or text monitoring • Screen time limits must be set on a daily basis • Steep pricing plans limited to five or 20 devices

The Bottom Line

A newly-rebranded app that looks great, provides a ton of detail, and is approachable on the kid’s end.

1. Net Nanny

Feel better about your kid’s TikTok obsession with NetNanny’s social media feed filters and live web monitoring.

  • Five devices: $54.99/year
  • 20 devices: $89.99/year
See Details

When duking it out in more general par

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Apple

Crypto wallet MetaMask finally launches on iOS and Android, and it supports Apple Pay

If you’ve interacted with cryptocurrencies in the past couple of years, there’s a good chance you’ve used MetaMask. It’s a cryptocurrency wallet in the form of a browser extension that supports Ethereum and its ecosystem, making it easy to connect with a decentralized app (dApp) that resides on a website.  But even though it’s been…

If you’ve interacted with cryptocurrencies in the past couple of years, there’s a good chance you’ve used MetaMask. It’s a cryptocurrency wallet in the form of a browser extension that supports Ethereum and its ecosystem, making it easy to connect with a decentralized app (dApp) that resides on a website. 

But even though it’s been an essential tool for crypto users for years, MetaMask wasn’t widely available on mobile — until now. On Wednesday, ConsenSys announced the availability of MetaMask Mobile on iOS and Android. 

The app is a bit different from the desktop version of MetaMask. For one, it’s not a browser extension. On mobile, MetaMask is a native cryptocurrency wallet, with the ability to interact with various dApps, either through a list of fe

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The algorithms defining sexuality suck. Here’s how to make them better.

Mashable’s series Algorithms explores the mysterious lines of code that increasingly control our lives — and our futures. Ever since porn was credited as one of the most innovating forces behind early internet technology, we’ve become obsessed with the idea of tech enhancing our sex lives. We’re so horny for it that we’ve helped build…

Mashable’s series Algorithms explores the mysterious lines of code that increasingly control our lives — and our futures.


Ever since porn was credited as one of the most innovating forces behind early internet technology, we’ve become obsessed with the idea of tech enhancing our sex lives. We’re so horny for it that we’ve helped build a that’s expected to keep growing.

Sextech often sells people on the promise that algorithms can optimize users’ sexual experiences. But a vast majority of algorithms built explicitly for pleasure remain rudimentary at best and harmful at worst — including those used in s and .

That’s because a lot of sextech relies on a grossly reductive view of sexuality. Exhibit A: The all-male startup that claimed to invent an . Exhibit B: The fellatio machine which promises “the perfect blowjob” thanks to artificial intelligence fed porn video data.

Even the most advanced, well-intentioned sextech is held back by a lack of legitimate sex research, accurate data, and designer diversity. That’s on top of the biases built into algorithms, overstated tech capabilities, marketing gimmicks, and Silicon Valley capitalism. 

“The pleasure product industry is one of the few industries that has been relatively untouched by modern technology,” said Liz Klinger, co-creator of the , which tracks and generates charts of your vaginal contractions during arousal. The biggest trends of VR and remote control smart toys, she pointed out, use tech that’s decades old. “Existing companies just don’t understand how software, data, AI, or other technology can introduce new experiences or appeal to new, different demographics.”

The failures to integrate algorithms into sexual exploration and expression go beyond an outdated adult toy industry and bleed into all corners of the internet. As it stands now, the binaries encoded in algorithms seem almost diametrically opposed to the complex spectrum of human sexuality. 

But there are ways to change that.

The binaries encoded in algorithms can seem almost diametrically opposed to the complex spectrum of human sexuality. 

“Technologists write algorithms that are interacting with these very complicated social systems with no consideration or background in their complexities. But there’s already a lot of information out there on how to approach gender and sex that you just have to incorporate into your algorithm,” said , the founder of , a social media sharing platform that uses machine learning to create a safe space for women and LGBTQ folks to express themselves sexually. 

The algorithms policing sex on social media have such little nuance that they can’t even differentiate porn from sex ed, sexual health, or sex commentary. Sexism and homophobia are so entrenched in how platforms like Facebook and Instagram police sexuality that ads for women’s sex toys and HIV/AIDs prevention are banned while ads for condoms and erectile dysfunction pills are allowed. Those same biases plague algorithm-driven sextech devices, too, which often impose false and exclusionary ideals about what the “best” sex should feel like. Lack of scientific research and data around pleasure and sex, especially when it comes to people with vaginas, makes it almost impossible for sextech to deliver on its promises of sexual optimization.

It doesn’t have to be that way, though. Algorithms don’t need to default to constricting heteronormative male views on sexuality. Instead, a few companies are grounding their algorithms in more inclusive feminist approaches to sexuality in the hopes of countering these cultural biases. 

But it takes investment to try something new, which the majority of the sex and tech industries have so far been unwilling to pony up.

WATCH: This is how algorithms work

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“We’re seeing an increase in people using sextech to feel connected,” said , an activist for sex workers’ digital rights, vice president of , and a self-described thot leader. “But I always say, with sextech, we’re not teaching yoga or selling smoothies here. We’re dealing with something so intricate, so personal, so deeply rooted in all of us. We need to think carefully about the philosophies we’re putting into these algorithms and talk about their potential harms as much as their potential benefits.”

Once we start doing that, the sex-positive potential of algorithms are theoretically endless.

“There’s a lot that algorithms, software, and other technology can do to help improve pleasure and understanding of our own sexualities,” said Klinger. “For Lioness, some of the uses I’m seeing is utilizing real-world sex data to put different experiences of pleasure into context for our users.”

Perhaps the greatest potential for algorithms in the sexual wellness field might lie beyond just explorations of pleasure. According to Emily Sauer — the creator of the that allows couples to customize penetration depth to avoid pain — algorithms could help remove the societal shame of openly discussing our sexual difficulties.

“We turn to sextech to feel less alone,” said Sauer. “We want to know how we relate to everyone else through the tech, the data, because nobody’s talking about these taboo things that make us uncomfortable.”

The promise land of algorithmically-driven sexual exploration is like playing with fire, though. Algorithms are as capable of destroying healthy relationships to sex as nourishing them.

Fixing the algorithms that police sexuality

Time and time again, algorithms have been shown to perpetuate the implicit biases of human beings around gender and race. The most influential algorithms informing sexual expression in our modern world are no exception. 

Leadership at social media companies like Facebook and Twitter tend to be mostly white, heterosexual, cis men. They’re also the ones who get to decide what their platforms — and the algorithms that monitor them — consider appropriate sexuality versus obscenity, or sexual exploitation versus sexual expression on the internet.

Unsurprisingly, those definitions of sexuality are revealing themselves to be very narrow and discriminatory. 

Sex-blocking algorithms have been found to disproportionately censor marginalized groups, especially LGBTQ folks, sex workers,

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