TikTok, which was huge before the pandemic, and it seems to be growing astronomically, as so many of us seek lighter content. Adults have now flooded the platform aimed at young people, making us wonder if teens and 20-somethings will soon flee (as happened on Facebook). That said, in case you know the name but still aren’t sure exactly what TikTok is, it’s a social networking service, used to create very short (15-60 seconds) routines including dance, lip-sync, comedy, and other talents. It has over 800 million users, and more than 30 million in the U.S. (again, before the pandemic). One of the questions we hear most from parents and educators is “What should we know that we don’t know about it?” For that, we turn to our teen Youth Advisory Board, the true experts.
First, here are the main reasons they enjoy it:
- “I use it to scroll and see what famous people do in their free time and how they influence people.”
- “I love to learn all of the different dances with friends.”
- “I like how you can get a sense of what is trending/popular nowadays by using the app, and there is lots of funny content as well theater really fun to watch.”
- “I mostly use my account to watch other people’s videos and make funny ones with my friends.”
- “I use it to connect with my friends and see what they are up to if we live far apart.”
- “It’s a fun break from all the school work that piles on.”
They say these are the big downsides:
- “Seeing popular TikTokers, especially girls, can be damaging to your self-image and confidence, and give unrealistic standards for beauty.”
- “Some of the videos are great, but I just can’t get past the inappropriate part of it that encourages people, especially girls, to show their bodies in ways they shouldn’t.”
- “I dislike that anyone can discover your page and that’s a safety issue.”
- “It can be very easy to just fall into spending too much time on it.”
- “It’s another social platform that provides lots of opportunities to compare yourself to others, which can be damaging to many people’s self-esteem.”
- “There are a lot of suggestive/heavy comments as well as sexual and dark humor. People should think about posting cleaner content given how many young kids are on it.”
- “I dislike how young girls use explicit language and lip-sync to songs that include swearing words.”
- “I do not like how pre-teens feel pressured to wear revealing clothing or heavy makeup to gain attention.”
And the million-dollar question we asked them: What do you think parents should know about TikTok?
Tyeisha: I would advise that any girl report it on the app for an inappropriate situation and to talk to an adult who they trust.
Caroline: I think that parents and adults should know that TikTok is a fun app when used safely, but if you let a child get an account, a parent either needs to monitor it very closely when they are on it (only letting them have the account on a parent’s device), or not letting a child get the app until they are at an appropriate age/mature enough age (12/13+).
Priscilla: I think that if parents are concerned, they should download the app themselves to see what it’s all about because like many other things, you can’t base your opinions off of rumors or what others say; they should see for themselves. I think that, as I said before, kids under 14 generally shouldn’t be on the app, but every kid has a different maturity level and parents should allow their kids to have TikTok based on what they think is appropriate for them to be exposed to.
Addison: I think TikTok is a fun app to express yourself, but things can get out of hand. And if they do, always support your child and make them know that that they are amazing.
Angela: Yes, I do encounter inappropriate comments while using TikTok. When I see the comments, I feel a bit confused and perplexed. I wonder to myself: “Would people say their thoughts in person rather than the screen?” I believe it is easy to hide behind a smartphone and say rude things because you are not directly stating to the person. On occasions, I would ignore the comments and move on with the next short video. However, if it makes me extremely uncomfortable to the point where it is bothersome, TikTok has the feature to report the comment and choose the following reasons as to why it is unsuitable.
Ethan: I believe adults are absolutely correct about one side of TikTok being harmful but there’s still the other side that is used in a great, positive way. For instance, someone might post about their recovery and strengthening as a person but get shunned because people are instead putting the spotlight on inappropriate areas. The spotlight can be used in a beneficial way, but be careful not to overuse it.
Zoe: I don’t think that parents know enough about TikTok. I think that people are right to be concerned, but if we use it safely, it can be a positive experience.
Marlie: TikTok is like any social media platform. It’s very broad and filled with things both good and bad. For some it can be very fun and inspiring, and for those people, they should be able to use with it without guilt. However, it can be hurtful and put pressure on some. Adults should look for these signs and know that it’s not a guarantee for anyone who happens to download the app, but, as with anything, they should be able to support their kid if it seems to be having a negative effect on them. TikTok is a large world, and some concerns are true, but it’s important to realize they don’t apply to everyone.
Applications for our 2020-21 Youth Advisory Board are open here: