I want to bring to your attention a booming epidemic in our schools: TikTok.
TikTok is a Chinese video-sharing app that allows users to create and share short-form videos on any topic. With more than 1 billion monthly active users, TikTok is extremely popular among children and teenagers in the U.S. According to a survey by the Pew Research Center in 2020, 41% of teenagers in the U.S. reported using TikTok.
Kids get attracted to this site as it is very easily accessible on their phones, is free, and allows them to create and share short videos; its algorithm makes it very addictive, and peer pressure plays a significant role, too.
However, using TikTok is hugely counterproductive for this new generation. Some of the reasons are:
1. Cyberbullying: Kids can and are exposed to bullying or other forms of online harassment on TikTok.
2. Inappropriate content: They are exposed to age-inappropriate or harmful content on TikTok, such as violence, hate speech, or sexually explicit material.
3. Privacy concerns: Children and teenagers are at risk of sharing personal information or location data on TikTok, which predators or other malicious actors could use.
4. Addiction: Children and teenagers are getting addicted to using TikTok; their time spent on the site is increasing, and their ability to focus on education and other valuable activities is declining.
5. TikTok can have an extremely negative impact on the self-esteem of many students.
6. Lack of critical thinking: Children and teenagers may be susceptible to misinformation, conspiracy theories and other false information spread on TikTok.
Schools can and must regulate the use of TikTok in a variety of ways, including:
1. Blocking access: Schools can use internet filtering software to block access to TikTok on school networks.
2. Establishing guidelines: Schools can set policies that TikTok should not be used during school hours and on school property and ensure students understand the consequences of breaking these rules.
3. Educating students: Schools can inform students of the potential dangers of TikTok, such as cyberbullying and sharing personal information.
4. Monitoring usage: Schools can monitor the use of TikTok at school networks and investigate any misuse or violations of school policies.
5. Encourage alternative apps: Schools can encourage using alternative more educational apps.
Parents and guardians must monitor their children’s use of TikTok and educate them about the potential risks of social media use, setting boundaries and openly communicating with children and teens about this.
It is important to note that, as a parent or guardian, you can also set up parental controls on the app to manage the time spent on TikTok and the content that can be viewed.
Ultimately, the most effective approach is a combination of these methods, with an emphasis on clear communication and education.
I presented this information at the William S. Hart Union High School District board meeting on Jan. 18 and requested the board to put this critical topic on their agenda for the next meeting and to consider the suggestions to stop this epidemic.
Dr. Aakash Ahuja