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TikTok Effects on Mental Health: What To Watch Out For

TikTok Effects on Mental Health: What To Watch Out For

Tiktok, one of the popular social media apps worldwide, is the platform of choice for Gen Z. The app, which initially featured catchy dance routines and skits, extended to other types of content. Some users have gotten creative with it — they use it to share news, art, or to promote their businesses. Though it provides high entertainment value, Tiktok effects on mental health are something to be wary of. This is especially true for adolescents.

Social Media and Mental Health

Social media is instrumental in adolescent development because it enables the youth to forge relationships with their peers and explore their identity. It’s very easy to reach out to friends and feedback is immediately available and measurable (in the form of likes, views and shares). There are benefits to it — Tiktok is an avenue for creative expression, humor, entertainment, and connectedness with peers.

But its negative impact is troubling. Certain social media experiences have been reported to affect the youth’s mental health.

Children are exposed to screens at a very early age. In fact, a 2017 UNICEF report said that 1 in 3 Internet users is a child. The same report said that the private sector and the government are not doing enough to protect the youth from digital technology’s potential harms. Children’s online surfing is less supervised. And as a result, they are vulnerable to harmful content, cyberbullying, or even exploitation and abuse.

Tiktok effects on mental health are especially relevant to teenagers, since experts associate this life stage with a greater risk for the onset of mental disorders. A widespread use of social media may be influencing higher rates of mental health concerns. These issues include body image problems, eating disorders and depression.

Social media also exposes teenagers to risky experiences like social exclusion, online conflict and social comparison.

Tiktok Effects on Mental Health

Almost all adolescents between 13 and 17 use social media. YouTube, Instagram, Snapchat and Facebook are among the most popular, but Tiktok quickly gained currency. Last year, Tiktok hit the one-billion mark for number of active users. The US, Europe, Brazil and Southeast Asia are its largest markets.

Nearly 50 million Tiktok users in the US is at least 14 years old. A former employee of the social media platform, however, reported that children who appear much younger than 14 have videos posted on the app.

In addition to the earlier discussed effects, an article by clinical psychologist Alan Blotcky heralded Tiktok effects on mental health:

  • It disrupts sleep. Teenagers need 8 to 10 hours of sleep, but most only get 6.5 to 7.5 hours. A hormonal shift influences their body to feel tired later at night, and using smartphones further reduces their sleeping time. Chronic sleep deprivation makes it more difficult for them to concentrate, shortens their attention span, impairs decision-making skills, causes depression, moodiness and risk-taking behavior among others.
  • It’s psychologically addictive. Kids spend more time on the app per session as compared to other platforms.

An expose by John Byrne, founder of online news outfit Raw Story revealed the phenomenon called “#paintok”, which promoted self-harm content on Tiktok to its young user base. Video suggestions on the app included creators discussing suicide in an offhand manner or joking about self-harm.

Key Takeaway

Tiktok’s wildfire-like spread throughout the globe poses a threat to mental health, particularly in teenagers. Despite it being a way to connect with friends, express oneself and de-stress, parents should be mindful about harmful Tiktok effects on mental health. These include depression, distorted body image and eating disorders. Exposure to social exclusion and online conflict can also be a challenge. Harmful content on the app could even influence the ways teenagers think or talk about serious issues like suicide and self-harm.

Learn more about Mental Health here.


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Sources

The Impact of Social Media on Youth Mental Health, https://doi.org/10.18043/ncm.81.2.116, Accessed 10 Mar 2022

UNICEF: Make the digital world safer for children – while increasing online access to benefit the most disadvantaged, https://www.unicef.org/philippines/press-releases/unicef-make-digital-world-safer-children-while-increasing-online-access-benefit-most, Accessed 10 Mar 2022

TikTok now has more than 1 billion active users worldwide, https://www.rappler.com/technology/social-media/tiktok-billion-monthly-active-users-announcement/, Accessed 10 Mar 2022

A Third of Tiktok’s U.S. Users May Be 14 or Under, Raising Safety Questions, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/08/14/technology/tiktok-underage-users-ftc.html, Accessed 10 Mar 2022

What’s TikTok doing to our kids? Concerns from a clinical psychologist, https://www.nydailynews.com/opinion/ny-oped-whats-tiktok-doing-to-our-kids-20211118-32kx365w2ja6rhnoe2aoorkbpi-story.html, Accessed 10 Mar 2022

Teenagers and sleep, https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/teenagers-and-sleep, Accessed 10 Mar 2022

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Written by China Logarta Updated Apr 05
Fact Checked by Vincent Sales