States to Launch Massive Investigation Into TikTok’s Potential Harm To Children

Photo by Wesley Tingey via Unsplash

States to Launch Massive Investigation Into TikTok’s Potential Harm To Children

By Movieguide® Staff

Several state attorneys general recently launched an investigation into the video-sharing app TikTok and its alleged connection to users’ poor mental health.

California, Florida, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Nebraska, New Jersey, Tennessee, and Vermont led the investigation after a recent concern over the harmful effects of social media on young users and a lack of accountability of major tech companies.

“Our children are growing up in the age of social media — and many feel like they need to measure up to the filtered versions of reality that they see on their screens,” California Attorney General Rob Bonta said in a news release. “We know this takes a devastating toll on children’s mental health and well-being.”

Movieguide® previously reported:

As the number of lawsuits against the porn industry continues to rise and awareness around the sexual exploitation of minors through adult content grows, many companies are under fire from activists groups such as Exodus Cry and the National Center on Sexual Exploitation (NCOSE).

TikTok responded: “Protecting minors is vitally important, and TikTok has taken industry-first steps to promote a safe and age-appropriate experience for teens.”

However, in 2020, the NCOSE placed TikTok on its annual Dirty Dozen List, which calls out companies and tech which appear to profit off the sexual exploitation of children.

NCOSE Communications Director Jake Roberson said at the time: “These exploiters utilize TikTok to view minor users and either comment and or message these users directly, often requesting sexually explicit videos. An advocacy group accurately called TikTok a ‘hunting ground for predators to abuse children.’ Forbes identified TikTok as a magnet for sexual predators.”

Shortly after their appearance on the list, they announced changes to allow more parental control over what children see on the app.

“We want people to have fun on TikTok, but it’s also important for our community to look after their wellbeing which means having a healthy relationship with online apps and services,” TikTok said in a statement from Feb. 2020. “We will keep introducing ways to keep our community safe so they can stay focused on what matters to them – creating, sharing, and enjoying the creativity of TikTok’s community.”

TikTok also poses additional potential physical and spiritual harm to children.

As Movieguide® previously reported:

A new podcast expose from the Wall Street Journal is exposing how TikTok’s algorithms expose users to harmful content.

This harmful content includes videos about self-harm, extremely harmful dieting, and suicide. What makes it even worse is that these videos show up on TikTok users’ pages, even when they didn’t seek it out. In an episode of the Tech News Briefing podcast, the Wall Street Journal explores the impact this app is having on its users. 

Additionally, the algorithm funnels users to dangerous spiritual content.

“While the most watched TikTok videos may appear asinine to anyone who doesn’t enjoy teenagers lip syncing to popular songs, some surprising subcultures have arisen since the platform’s inception in 2017. One of these is the ‘WitchTok’ community. Videos labelled #WitchTok have so far clocked up an impressive 18.7 billion views,” Rebekah King writes for The Conversation. 

Furthermore, as Movieguide® reported:

Doctors recently warned that the viral video platform TikTok could be leading to an increase of teen girls developing Tourette-like tics.

“These kids are trying to find support for anxiety and other things, and they’re going to TikTok and other social media to find help, and it’s coming back to bite them in a terrible, terrible way,” Brandi Johnsen told the Wall Street Journal.

Johnsen’s daughter Kayla began to have involuntary muscle spasms and tics last year. After a battery of tests and multiple visits to specialists, Kayla ultimately saw a movement specialist who asked about her social media habits.

The specialist connected the dots and realized that Kayla’s tics worsened when she watched videos of people who also had tics.

“I do think my tics may have been triggered by these videos and that it spiraled into its own beast,” Kayla said.

These viral videos are no longer harmless entertainment. Rather, our children are the victims, and adults must step in to protect them.

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