I haven’t downloaded the TikTok app, but watching it is one of my favorite times of the week. Our teenage daughter and I watch her favorite TikTok videos from her phone at the kitchen table every weekend.
During the week, our daughter curates the best TikTok videos for us to watch together for thirty minutes to an hour on Sunday afternoons. She saves them to a dedicated TikTok folder during her allowed weekly screen time.
My daughter has to ask us for TikTok time
My husband and I manage her access to time-consuming apps. If she wants TikTok, then she must ask for it. We receive “more screen time” requests throughout the day. Often, she sends compelling texts about completed homework and finished chores.
Sometimes, she rapidly fires her request until we respond with an offer of a time increment or a denial of additional time. When she is with friends and her time requests remain unnoticed, she calls us in a lowered voice to check our texts.
Most of the videos she compiles center around old dogs and elderly people. She advises me when I will need tissues to watch some of them. I whine that I don’t want to cry, but we both end up in tears anyway.
Some of our favorite videos are the puppy to old dog transition
The puppy-to-old-dog transition videos always make us tear up. Our 15-year-old rescue dog often whimpers with empathy as we watch the videos. I pick her up to soothe her as she nuzzles to do the same.
Our daughter shares videos of grandparents’ birthday celebrations. She tearily explains how they remind her of Grams and Papa. I shed tears, knowing that her memories of my parents would comfort her someday.
To cheer us up, she shows bucket list travel videos. The TikTok videos showcase beautiful vistas, flower-lined streets, sprawling coasts, mesmerizing gardens, and white sand beaches. We fantasize about Santorini, Lake Como, Sicily, and Capri.
Some of our favorite videos reveal over-the-top wedding weekends, from French lace wedding dresses to lush imperial tables. Most of the candlelit receptions are on countryside estates overlooking endless Tuscan vineyards.
We watch popular dance videos with old hits
We watch popular dance videos that unknowingly showcase bands from my college years. Afterward, I often play U2, Sarah McLachlan, and Erasure on our kitchen Alexa. She then plays the latest Taylor Swift and some eighties’ Hall and Oates.
Her videos often reveal whirlwind dream jobs. They are day-in-the-life videos of women working in big cities. We watch in awe as the early morning coffee stop rapidly progresses to a tabletop toast at the busy night’s end.
She skips over the saved videos on must-have makeup, splurge-worthy products, recipe hacks, and the latest fashion. Sometimes, she uses those videos for wish lists and gift planning. I have TikTok to thank for my last birthday gift.
Some of the most unexpected videos relate to childrearing. They show moms and dads up all night with colicky babies. Her eyes widen as she wonders how new parents manage the first weeks with their sanity intact.
The TikTok algorithm knows what we like to watch
I share stories of sleepless nights with her sister. Born five and a half weeks early, she would fall asleep while feeding and then wake up hungry ten minutes later. We laugh that I checked on her every hour the first time she finally slept through the night at six months.
She often relates that TikTok seems to know our tastes. She tells me I will love her latest file of video favorites. I smile, knowing that the algorithm has learned what appeals to both of us by monitoring what she and, sometimes, we watch thoroughly or repeatedly.
As parents, we know that screen time can be all-encompassing and isolating. Once a week, we sit side by side as TikTok connects our past and present. By watching her saved videos together, we positively influence next week’s app experience one quick video at a time.
I wouldn’t have it any other way.
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