TikTok: From Bullying to Making Besties, Here Are 8 Ways the Social Media Giant Has Affected the Younger Members of Gen Z

The social media app has gained vast popularity over the past several years. With popular dance challenges to funny animal videos, entertaining content never seems to be scarce. Tweens and teens have become a big part of this short video community. Ashlyn Rodgers highlights eight ways, both good and bad, that TikTok has affected the younger members of Gen Z.

Dancing the popular Renegade dance, Audrey Rodgers films a private TikTok for her friends and family. At twelve-years-old, Rodgers enjoys letting her inner TikTok star out whenever she has some free time. Like many of her friends, Rodgers keeps up-to-date with all the popular dance trends circulating on the social media app. Photos and design by Ashlyn Rodgers.

Getting to Know TikTok

From learning the Renegade dance to watching dogs fall off sofas, TikTok has videos to entertain all age groups. This social media app has become increasingly popular in the last year, especially with the younger members of Gen Z, the newest generation born between 1997 and 2015. But what exactly is it and how does it compare to other social media platforms?

TikTok is a video-sharing app created for individuals aged 12 and up that allows users to create, share, and view 15 to 60 second vertical videos about any topic. Users can edit their own short videos using filters, sounds, and stickers, similar to features found on Snapchat. Engagement is fairly simple. Users can give ‘hearts’ on videos they enjoy, essentially acting as a ‘like’ feature. If they do not like the content being shared on their ‘For You Page’, a feature similar to Twitter’s ‘timeline’ or Instagram’s ‘feed’, users simply swipe up and move to the next video. The more content users like and interact with, the better TikTok’s algorithm gets at sharing videos onto the ‘For You Page’ that cater to users’ specific interests.

As TikTok continues to gain user traction, more tweens and teens have joined the TikTok community. Like any social media in our digitized age, TikTok has had both positive and negative effects on these younger users. Here are eight ways TikTok has affected today’s youth.

#1 TikTok is a Creative Outlet

It is true! Users have creative freedom to make content in any way they choose. With the nearly endless library of both musical sounds and video filters at their fingertips, video content is almost infinite. Younger users can have fun taking their creative ideas and bringing them to life within minutes, all within a singular app. With the editing options being fairly simple, young users can easily navigate throughout the editing process at a very basic level.

#2 TikTok Houses Questionable Content for Young Audiences

Again, TikTok is a social media app which means there is going to be content that may not be suitable for their younger users. TikTok places an emphasis on popular music, allowing users to create videos with these tracks, many of which do include swearing or sexual lyrics. Other users often create dance tutorials to these songs that quickly become trends in the TikTok community. Many of these dances do have elements that are sexual in nature and are often not suitable for younger users to recreate.

#3 Users can Easily Make Friends

TikTok is extremely social in nature. Users heavily interact with others on TikTok, whether that be liking, sharing, or duetting other’s content. Because the content on user’s ‘For You Page’ quickly becomes somewhat ‘personalized’ based on interest, users can easily find other creators with similar interests.

#4 Unprofessional Advice is Often Shared

A big issue in the TikTok community is the idea that users can share any information they want on the platform. This has led to a large spike in users creating videos that promote harmful ‘beauty’ and ‘health’ videos that gain large reach within the app. Many of these videos showcase ‘ideal’ skin care or weight loss routines that are not backed up by scientific professionals, often promoting really damaging lifestyles. The younger users are already going through a very impressionable part of their own lives. If sucked into this rabbit hole of following ‘popular’ routines, the youth can seriously damage their bodies, ultimately harming vital aspects of youth development.

#5 Users Can Learn New Things

TikTok can actually be very educational if you look in the right places. The app is home to many creative professionals in all different fields of work. For older users, there are business professionals that promote ways to have successful interviews, resumes, and overall professional presence. For younger users, school teachers have joined TikTok and share daily lessons with the community, covering topics from history to art. There are also great baking and craft tutorials families can follow together in their spare time. It is also popular for TikTok users to share life tips that can come in handy for many people, no matter their age.

#6 TikTok Can Become Addictive Very Quickly

The TikTok algorithm is designed to fit your tastes and was ultimately designed to be addictive. The ‘For You Page’ is simply an unlimited stream of short video after short video with no interruptions, making it very easy to stay engaged. Because the videos are so short, users can get through a high number of content in an hour alone. This design plays to the youth of Gen Z, who have been proven to have a shorter attention span than previous generations, like Millennials. Becoming addicted to TikTok can act as a major distraction to the youth’s other obligations such as school work.

#7 TikTok Acts as a Source of Entertainment

Due to TikTok’s vast diversity in content, there is a lot to see on the app. Some of the activities users can do include dancing, acting, and lip-syncing. Creative challenges and dances often become trends users recreate with friends and family. Funny videos, including animal videos and pranks, also serve as other forms of entertainment on the platform.

#8 Bullying and Harmful Mental Health Impacts on TikTok

TikTok has no restrictions on who can join the app which can create harmful situations for many users, especially younger ones. Many times, comment sections become flooded with hateful words, criticizing the creator’s content. This is especially true on videos younger users create revolving around slime tutorials. These hateful comments can quickly impact a user’s mental health in negative ways. Just because comments are happening online does not mean their impact is any less serious.

Explainer Journalism by Ashlyn Rodgers for the Reynolds Sandbox

--

--

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Reynolds Sandbox

Showcasing innovative and engaging multimedia storytelling by students with the Reynolds Media Lab in Reno.