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Why experts fear TikTok will exacerbate the mental health crisis among teens


TikTok is facing heavy scrutiny for the impact the app can have on its younger users. We tell you why.

They recommend banning TikTok in the United States 1:14

New York (CNN) --

Jermone Yankey says that when he was in college he would stay up all night, not studying or partying, but surfing TikTok until dawn.

"I realized that I wasn't trying hard in my own life, but trying to live through what I saw," explains Yankey, 23.

He lost hours of sleep, his grades faltered and he lost contact with his friends and himself.

In 2021 he deleted the app.

The positive impact, he says, was obvious.

"It's great to be able to go back to sleep after midnight," she says.

"It's great to be able to get up early and be more productive when the sun is out."

In recent months, TikTok has faced increasing pressure from state and federal lawmakers over its ties to China through its parent company, ByteDance.

But some lawmakers and researchers have also been looking at the impact the short-form video app may have on its younger users.

  • TikTok adds options to encourage users to take a break from browsing

Republican Rep. Mike Gallagher, the incoming chairman of a new House select committee on China, recently called TikTok a "digital fentanyl" for its alleged "corrosive impact of constant social media use, especially on men and women." young people here in the United States.

Indiana's attorney general filed two lawsuits against TikTok last month, one alleging that the platform appeals to children by falsely claiming it is friendly to users ages 13 to 17.

And a study by a nonprofit organization claimed that TikTok can show teens potentially harmful content related to suicide and eating disorders within minutes of creating an account.

TikTok is by no means the only social platform scrutinized by lawmakers and mental health experts for its impact on teens.

Senior executives from various companies, including TikTok, have been questioned in Congress on this matter.

And this week, the Seattle Public Schools sued social media companies like Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Snapchat and YouTube alleging that the platforms have been "causing a youth mental health crisis," making it difficult for the school system to "comply its educational mission.


  • TikTok's search engine repeatedly offers misinformation to its mostly young user base, according to a report

But psychologist Dr. Jean Twenge said TikTok's algorithm in particular is "very sophisticated" and "very sticky," keeping teens hooked on the platform for longer.

TikTok has more than a billion users around the world.

Those users spent an average of an hour and a half a day on the app last year, more than on any other social media platform, according to digital analytics platform SensorTower.

"Many teens describe the experience of going on TikTok with the intention of spending 15 minutes and then spending two hours or more. This is problematic because the more time a teen spends on social media, the more likely they are to be depressed. And this is especially true in extreme cases," says Twenge.

This may compound the long-term rise in mental health problems, partly fueled by technology.

Psychologists say that as smartphones and social media grew around 2012, so did the rate of depression among teens.

Between 2004 and 2019, the rate of teen depression nearly doubled, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

And for adolescents it is worse.

In 2019, one in four American girls had suffered from clinical depression, according to Twenge.

  • Learn to recognize the symptoms that should alert you that your child shows signs of depression and mental health

TikTok said it has tools to help users set limits for the time they spend on the app each day.

TikTok also continues to roll out other safeguards for its users, including ways to filter videos with mature or "potentially problematic" content and more parental controls.

"One of our most important commitments is to support the safety and well-being of teens, and we recognize that this work is never done. We continue to focus on strong safety protections for our community, while empowering parents with additional account controls of their teenage children through TikTok Family Pairing," TikTok said in a statement to CNN.

The company said that between April and June 2022, it removed 93.4% of self-harm and suicide videos from the app before they were viewed.

But teens say it's not the most egregious videos that keep them hooked.

It's the content scheduled for them in the "For You" section of the app.

"It's very tailored to you," says Angelica Faustino, an 18-year-old sophomore at the University at Buffalo who says she spends 3-4 hours a day on TikTok.

"There's a lot of body checking on TikTok, a lot of people showing things about themselves that are maybe unattainable. You see it enough times to think 'I should be like this,'" says Faustino.

However, despite all the concerns, there are signs that TikTok and other social networks may also have a positive impact on younger users.

Most teens say that social media can be a space for connection and creativity, according to Pew Research.

Eight in 10 teens ages 13 to 17 say social media makes them feel more connected to what's going on in their friends' lives, and 71% say social media is a place where they can be creative, according to Pew. .

  • TikTok will unveil how it recommends videos to users

And some members of Generation Z, the generation that grew up on TikTok, have found unique opportunities on the platform.

Hannah Williams spends her time on TikTok running her business, Salary Transparent Street.

She interviews ordinary Americans about the salary they earn at their jobs, providing salary transparency to her nearly 1 million followers.

"I quit my job in May 2022 to pursue my social media page on TikTok full time because I saw a great opportunity to do something with my career," explains 26-year-old Williams.

"I think it's interesting that we can try to use social media to really impact the world for good," he said, "and I hope that's what happens."

TeensMental HealthTikTok

Source: cnnespanol

All news articles on 2023-01-12

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