Tiktok is corrupting the minds of the youth

TikTok, the video-sharing social media platform released in late 2016, is corrupting the minds of its users, specifically those under the age of thirty. Here is why.

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Adrienne Gaylord

It’s easy to get lost in the endless scrolling of TikTok.

Thomas Reinhart, RubicOnline

TikTok has a lot to offer. Currently, there are about one billion monthly users, plenty of whom post frequently. The app allows users to create 15-60 second videos and post them for the world to see for those who do not know. There are plenty of videos from every category of content, including sports, politics, memes, cooking and workout tutorials, and more. TikTok is similar to every social media platform: it has positive, useful, and well-intended content, but also an offensive, harmful, and excessively negative side. The TikTok algorithm carefully notices which videos you interact with (liking, sharing, commenting on, or even watching the post for a few seconds, all count as interaction) and continuously updates your feed to show similar content. For example, those who have interacted with a Ben Shapiro video are unlikely to see Trevor Noah in their feed. So, how does this seemingly well-intended and straightforward app corrupt the minds of the youth?

The summer of 2020 is where this story begins. At this time, there was an incredibly animated presidential contest and excessive amounts of videos containing sensitive racial and social content. For example, there were plenty of videos containing animated political statements and bogus political rhetoric directed at the other side of the aisle. There were also videos of people mocking George Floyd’s death and other racial/social justice movements. The problem is that this gives viewers (where in the United States over 50% are under the age of 30) a false narrative. This causes many people to develop stereotypes and beliefs about a particular group of people that are most often false. Some videos proclaimed that Biden sexually harasses children or that Trump hates all black people. Others stated that Democrats only care about opening the border and raising taxes and that all Republicans are racist, sexist, homophobic, and bigoted. To more experienced web users, this seems like close-minded and stupid political statements. However, the problem is that young kids whose first introduction to American politics come at the expense of TikTok, where they see overwhelmingly false information which they end up believing just because they saw it on social media. The influence of social media is unparalleled. Nowadays, a lot of people get their news from social media and most children have multiple social media apps. These platforms are riddled with deception and posts that only demonstrate one side of the argument. Not many young kids are going to be able to see through this deception. This is not only for young kids, it applies to older teenagers and young adults. Those who are not as politically engaged might see content similar to this and develop beliefs based on it, which leads to hatred and frustration with the other side of the aisle, which is a significant contributor to the sharp division in our country today.

These platforms are riddled with deception and posts that only demonstrate one side of the argument.”

It can be easy to say, “Well, just ignore it. Not everything you see on the internet is real.” A fair and valid counterpoint; however, it falls flat on its face. The problem is that TikTok is so widespread that its influence is massive. One billion users visit the app per month, meaning that this information is easily accessible and quickly transmitted, and kids don’t know any better. Social media and technology are evolving so rapidly that most parents have no idea what it is anymore (or at least have a lesser knowledge than their kids do about said apps), which means that it is hard for them to monitor what their child consumes on the internet. This often leads to the child viewing insensitive or inappropriate content on the app, going to their friends and joking about it, and then incorporating the behavior into their personalities (whether that be offensive language, behavior, or any of the above). It is safe to assume that kids do not show their parents every single video they see on the internet to receive their insight as to whether or not it is accurate, and it is safe to assume that most kids will not show their parents racist, sexist, homophobic, and other bigoted videos.

Because kids are not having conversations with their parents about the content they see, they are developing opinions based on false information. Not every parent has the best judgment in the world. However, they have more life experience and can help inform their child of a more complete truth. While this content exists on all social media platforms, TikTok is overwhelmingly the most popular social media app right now, so it is the most significant contributor to this problem. It is undoubtedly true that America is more divided than it has ever been (politics, racial/social justice, and socioeconomic status). If children develop these beliefs, who will tell them that they are not true? They will grow up believing these things to be true and then acting upon their beliefs, which furthers political tensions, refusing to believe that racism, homophobia, sexism, and other discrimination are problems. Moreover, kids are ignorant. They do not like to be told how to act or believe. So the things they see on TikTok, think are funny, and incorporate into their own lives are poisonous. It corrupts the minds of the people who are ultimately going to have to fix our society’s problems. How can we expect them to do that if they are becoming part of the problem? There is no clear solution to this; however, there can and needs to be an attempt to solve this problem. TikTok’s guidelines and those who monitor the platform’s content need to do a better job. If you see an inappropriate video, report it. At the end of the day, just deleting the app works too. Far too many people spend far too much time on TikTok anyhow, whether it be procrastinating homework or other activities. It is killing two birds with one stone: removing yourself from the corruptive, poisonous environment as well as removing the source of procrastination.