The Downside to Tiktok
By Khalidha Naushad
Ceylon Today Features
Tiktok, formerly known as musical.ly, was launched in 2017, making its availability in more than 40 languages. According to Sensor Tower, the app has been downloaded more than two billion times worldwide since its introduction (which does not always reflect active users). During the pandemic, Tiktok's popularity skyrocketed, making it the most downloaded app in the globe in the first quarter of 2020.
Tiktok, on the other hand, announced in September that it had surpassed one billion monthly users. Around 900,000 people in Sri Lanka have signed up for it. In Sri Lanka, the bulk of TikTok users are between the ages of 18 and 35. TikTok's popularity in Sri Lanka has soared in comparison to other social media apps, owing to the fact that it is also utilised for marketing.
What is Tiktok?
Memes, lip-synced tunes, and comedy videos are just a few of the trends that have emerged on Tiktok. The app is popular among teenagers these days, and it has a devoted, young user base. The minimum age to join the platform is 13 years old, however in Ireland, the Digital Age of Consent has been set at 16 years. Users of Tiktok also like competing in many challenges that can be entered using the app's trending hashtags. While collecting likes, followers, and being highlighted on the app are important to many of these users, for the rest, it is just a way to pass the time.
Teens and Tiktok
Tiktok is something that Gen Z can't get enough of. This app allows users to record themselves singing, lip-syncing, dancing, attempting viral challenges, or doing anything else for three to 15 seconds. Teens are gradually transitioning from being just audiences to active creators of content. The app may be a fun way for users to express themselves while also creating social content. Teens increasingly spend a significant amount of time online creating and sharing their own content. The hashtags that are available inspire users to participate in numerous challenges, giving them the chance to become a viral sensation.
Tiktok, however has made news headlines for allegedly being a ‘bad influence’ for kids. Common Sense Media reads a comment of a parent whose kid has been badly influenced by the app, “…when left to her own devices, I found my 10-year-old lip syncing to suggestive lyrics she didn’t even understand. And dancing and gesturing the way a rock diva does. What is worse is that the rating system becomes addictive. She and her friends kept pushing the envelope to see how many ‘likes’ they could get. What originally was supposed to be a private account became public for the thrill of getting the approval of strangers. Definitely started off sweet and innocent, and then due to these unsavoury lyrics, went down a bad path when I wasn’t watching.”
Dangerous yet viral challenges
This app has faced alot of threats including temporary bans from many countries including India, Indonesia, and Bangladesh. With all of Tiktok's strange and disgusting trends, it's no surprise that it is facing such threats. Trends are usually shown on Tiktok’s explore page with the relevant hashtags such as #getupchallenge, #prefectmatch and many more. Tiktok was, and continues to be, a top five app for dangerous online trends that result in deaths. #blackoutchallenge, #dryscoopchallenge are some of the dangerous trends that are attempted by many users for ‘fun’.
Many Tiktok users are reported to have faced severe injuries when attempting such challenges. According to Newsweek, many young people had died as a result of the choking game that comes under the hashtag, #blackoutchallenge. There is evidence that children died from games involving chokes as early as 1995, according to US’s Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study. However, this trend is making a deadly comeback with some young Tiktok users and it has already claimed lives of many kids. Some are hospitalised and in critical condition.
The #dryscoopchallenge, is where Tiktokers try gulping a spoon of pre-workout powder completely dry. Now you may wonder what’s wrong in having pre-workout supplements. In this case, the pre-workout powder must be dissolved in water in order to consume it. Among the Tiktokers who experienced a serious condition attempting this challenge was Briatney Portillo. This 22-year-old dancer had a heart attack and ended up in the hospital as a consequence of trying the #dryscoopchallenge to energise her workout. Many who attempted this challenge end up nearly choking.
Following up with these trends is the back cracking challenge, another one that has Tiktokers endangering their bodies. The challenge involves two participants. First, one person kneels on the floor and puts their hands on the back of their head. Next, a second person faced away from the camera, interlocks arms with the first person and lifts them, resulting in an audible ‘crack’ sound. According to Healthline, while cracking one’s back is not inherently dangerous, it does carry certain risks.
For example, using too much force or cracking too often could lead to joint strain, swelling, or breakdown. In recent times, there is another shocking challenge where youngsters go missing on purpose for 48 hours. Such trends must be addressed in order to educate the parents about the downside of letting children use Tiktok or any other social media. Parents should closely monitor the kids’ social media use.
Keep your kid safe
No parent will be happy with their child publishing videos on the internet. As a solution, they can collaborate with their teenagers to create videos for the app. Teens are obviously not receptive, but if they are, it can become a fun family pastime that allows the elders to see what the kids are up to on the app. Whether or not you were aware that Tiktok accounts can be turned to private, it’s better if parents make sure that their children's accounts are set to private to safeguard them from unpleasant information and inappropriate communication with other users. Only those they accept can follow them, comment on their videos, and place hearts on their videos as a result of this. The parents can also set up the Tiktok accounts in a way the teens can watch others’ videos without owning an account.