TikTok is a video-sharing social media app that was first launched in September 2016 and has since gained tremendous popularity among teenagers, especially since the start of the 2020 COVID-19 lockdown. Teenagers have used the app to upload 60 seconds of videos of themselves lip-syncing, dancing, and participating in challenges made popular by this app.
TikTok has become the latest to join a list of harmful trendy apps and is currently ranked as the most downloaded app with 33 million downloads according to Sensor Tower 2019. Of the millions of downloaders of this app, 41% are between the ages of 16-24, according to the Global Web Index, 2019. However, the rest 59% are adults, watching videos of minors, which can and has led to an increase in crime against these minors including harassment, physical attacks, and stalking.
Negative Impacts of TikTok on Mental Health
While many teenagers on this app have used it to raise awareness about mental health in a light-hearted manner, this app has in reality led to the deterioration of mental health in many adolescents. The app was released as a fun platform to post videos, but some have instead used this platform to make fun of their peers by either making fun of them in their videos or make fun of the videos they have posted. This is considered to be a type of cyberbullying and can have long term negative effects on the mental health and self-image of teenagers.
In addition to this, a lot of teenagers watch so-called TikTokers, who are influencers famous for their lip-syncing, or dance challenge videos on TikTok, and their audience mainly comprised of minorities admire and compare themselves to these unrealistic heavily edited images of adolescent idols. This sets an unhealthy standard for teenagers to follow, who are already facing body dysmorphia due to the normal physiological changes their bodies are going through. They become obsessed with their appearance, leading to eating disorders and to many opting for cosmetic surgeries at a very young age or developing eating disorders and depression.
Teens, especially girls, watch videos on TikTok showing videos depicting ‘relationship goals’ and feel obligated to get into a relationship to find happiness. This leads to more complications in their life due to the extremely high expectations of relationships to be perfect. Many suffer from heartbreaks due to these unreasonable expectations which can be damaging to a teen’s mind.
Also, teens have come to the conclusion that TikTok is the one-step method of becoming famous. After all, they only have to upload a 60-second video of themselves but these videos are not always guaranteed to be received positively or go viral. And when their expectations aren’t met, they may try to find flaws in themselves as to why they couldn’t become famous. The self-hate and self-depreciation that TikTok promotes are extremely unhealthy.
The content on TikTok can be triggering to many viewers, and irresponsibly in the part of TikTok, there is no viewer discretion provided. It is also quite conveniently easy to come across these contents, with them being displayed on the explore page, all of which can be extremely harmful to teens with eating disorders or self-harming tendencies.
Impact of TikTok on Physical Safety of Adolescents
TikTok does not screen its members so anyone can join the app and contact literally anyone on it. “There are no restrictions as to who can join the app and it is used internationally, connecting virtually everyone,” explained Digital Family Expert Theresa Desuyo, at the parental control software company Qustodio. The ease with which these teens can be contacted, they are left exposed to predators on this app. They prey on the teenagers who post videos, and this has led to many cases of harassment and stalking which is detrimental to the mental health of teenagers leading to severe anxiety disorders.
TikTok is also famous for its challenges. Most of the challenges that end up going viral are challenges that involve some sort of physical activity. While challenges involving exercising are considered harmless, it needs to be considered that a lot of these teenagers, as mentioned above, have body dysmorphia and tend to overexert themselves. Moreover, some of the physical challenges are extremely dangerous for teens to be trying at home, but they do it anyway leading to severe injuries.
The Government’s opinion on TikTok
With all the negative aspects of the app, it can be safely said that the negatives outweigh any positive aspects of the app, and the POTUS, Donald Trump seems to agree on this. He has been trying to ban the app in the US, following its ban in Asian countries like India and Pakistan. The reason for its ban in India and Pakistan included reasons mentioned above. However, the reason for the proposed ban in the US has nothing to do with the mental health effects but instead worries of national security. Another negative for the app is the assumption that this Chinese-owned app might share its users’ information with the Chinese government. This is considered by the POTUS to be a big threat to national security, and Trump has said it’s extremely important that the app is shut down and banned in the US.
Overall, TikTok is a social media platform that has the potential to be used as a platform to raise awareness among teenagers regarding both mental and physical health, but as of now the mental health side-effects of this app seem too dangerous to be ignored. The content on this app needs to be controlled and be under parental supervision due to the high number of minors using the app. Also, time spent on the app should be reduced as more exposure can have many negatives, like social media addiction, anxiety, and eating disorders. The feeling of inadequacy in teens has been spreading, more and more due to the app and it is high time that this is put to a stop.
*Disclaimer: Gilmore Health Does not Endorse The views in this Article!