Just getting started with TikTok? It’s not too late

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It has become impossible to ignore TikTok. It’s been a hugely popular short-form video app for hyperkinetic bursts of self-expression for years, now with more than 1 billion active users worldwide (some even use it as a search engine).

TikTok is not just for viral dance videos — it’s also wildly complicated. Its algorithm, which makes it easy to consume videos, has been blamed for amplifying misinformation and other harmful content. The Biden administration is currently negotiating with ByteDance, TikTok’s Chinese parent company, over concerns about national security and the safety of Americans’ personal data on foreign servers. And there are ongoing concerns about the mental health harms the app may pose to teenagers and young people.

But at least for now, TikTok is only growing in influence. If you’ve constantly heard it mentioned by your friends (and children) but have been unsure how it works, this guide is for you. No need to be embarrassed.

Once you’ve learned the basics, you’ll be better equipped to delve into #BookTok and other trends making news, supervise a child’s new account or just see what all the fuss is about.

Getting Started

If you want to add TikTok to your phone, download the app from your phone’s app store. TikTok is ad-supported and generally free.

Once you install the app, you must go through the familiar social-media ritual of setting up a new user account and profile page with a username and photo.

On the profile screen, tap the menu icon in the upper-right corner for the account settings, including parental controls.

Finding Videos

After you log in, tap the Home icon, and TikTok will start showing videos. The For You feed shows videos that TikTok’s recommendation algorithm thinks you will like, based on how you react to other videos and accounts. The Following feed shows clips from accounts you have chosen to follow.

Swipe up to go to the next clip. The vertical strip along the screen’s right side also has icons for liking a video, leaving a comment and sharing.

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