Only on the scene since 2016, TikTok has become a major player in the world of social media. Considering how many platforms there are to distract people of all ages, making a significant impact on users is no small feat. With the ability to post quick videos of dancing, short skits, and provocative tidbits, TikTok has attracted an audience of over one billion users around the world. Considered so dangerous at one point, and even a possible spy tactic by the Chinese government, President Trump nearly banned its use in the U.S. during his administration.
According to BBC.com, “TikTok’s secret lies in its use of music and an extraordinarily powerful algorithm, which learns what content users like to see far faster than other apps.” With its enormous database of movie clips, filters, and songs to lip-sync to, TikTok users can become hooked on its avenues of creativity. The platform is greatly appealing to the under-25 population, with Instagram and Twitter attracting older users.
The teenagers that fall into the under-25 age group are arguably an influenceable bunch. Teenagers may be susceptible to the downfalls of any social media platform since they are more likely to lack discernment at a young age. So just what kind of negative impact is TikTok having on the mental health of this population?
- TikTok Can Lead to Bullying – Anytime a person puts their content and opinions on a social media platform, they open themselves up to bullying. A large number of young people using TikTok increases the likelihood a teenager will encounter this issue. For example, their videos could be ridiculed and then shared with other students. Bullying has an enormous impact on a teenager’s well-being. The alienation caused by bullying is well known to create enough negative mental health effects to even lead to suicide.
- TikTok Can Lead to Addiction – The stream of material available to teenagers on TikTok is quite literally endless. When young people are glued to their phones watching one enticing video after another for hours on end, addiction is bound to occur. The negative impact of addiction to anything is clear. There are chemicals in the brain that become involved that make putting the phone down almost impossible. The mental impact of never turning away from the screen, in terms of what that does to in-person social connection, is severe.
- TikTok Can Lead to Unhealthy Comparisons with Others – Getting likes and followers is a major component of social media and TikTok. If a student puts up a video that doesn’t get very much attention and then looks at a similar video that garners a greater response, a student is likely to feel negative as they compare themselves against this, potentially leading to anxiety and depression. What this leads to is young people making more and more outrageous and dangerous videos to be more accepted. The mental effect of never being good enough takes a toll.
- TikTok Can Be Used by Predators – Like other avenues of social media, TikTok allows strangers direct access to children through messaging options. This sets up a perfect avenue for predators to manipulate. TikTok does not restrict anyone from joining, and with children making their presence so clear on the app, it sets up a perfect environment to prey upon those children making videos. Some might think that young people will know the difference between a creepy person messaging them and a regular admirer, but many predators are skilled at grooming children. Once a child is under the trappings of one of these types of people, their mental health is at extreme risk.
- TikTok Can Lead to Self-Harm and Eating Disorders – Issues like these are prevalent among teenagers. Since many young people who struggle mentally face these disorders, they will talk about this subject matter with some frequency on TikTok. While this is good in some way, it can also introduce these concepts to a very impressionable population. Instead of talking to an adult, they may turn to another teenager who is clueless about how to deal with their feelings.
- TikTok Can Expose Kids to Traumatic Content – One feature of TikTok is its endless stream of suggested clips. While seemingly harmless in its original intent, it can lead to dark places. For example, if a teen is watching videos about the military or hunting, TikTok may quickly direct them to clips about serial killers or murders. The mental impact of seeing disturbing images can have a harmful impact on a child’s well-being.
Parents have every right to be concerned about the number of hours that their kids spend on TikTok. Where possible, parents should learn to utilize parental controls over the TikTok app and should monitor the content that their kids are viewing.
It may also be helpful for parents to create their own TikTok account, if they don’t already have one, and ask their teenagers to show them what they like about it. Connecting with their children in this way is the first step to understanding the attraction of this platform. It can also help open up a dialogue to talk about its potentially negative impacts on their mental health.
New Dimensions Can Help!
If you or someone you know is experiencing any of the above symptoms or problems, New Dimensions can help. Our team of experienced therapists and psychiatrists can help you overcome these challenges and help you develop the skills you need to thrive. To schedule a complementary assessment or to find out more about our programs, contact us at 1-800-685-9796.
Our affiliate, MHThrive, provides Individual Therapy, Couples and Marriage Counseling, and Family Therapy at our locations in Katy, The Woodlands, and the Clear Lake area of Houston, Texas. We also provide telehealth therapy for anyone who resides within the State of Texas. To schedule an appointment with one of the MHThrive therapists, contact us at 713-477-0333 or visit www.mhthrive.com to learn more.