The Impact Of TikTok On Young People – Jennifer Oaten

The Impact Of TikTok On Young People – Jennifer Oaten

It’s no secret that TikTok is one of the most popular social media platforms among kids and teens today. With its short-form, engaging videos, it’s easy to see why. But as with any social media platform, there are risks involved in using TikTok. Being an educator in the 21st century is challenging, but TikTok has delivered a minefield for Principals and teachers to manage.

One of the main common concerns is that young people see not only their friends’ videos but any community member who posts. This abyss of unfiltered videos, many of them inappropriate and degrading to women, are available for any user to see.

As a girls’ school, we want to empower our students to have a voice on issues such as:

  • Breaking the cycle of how women are treated
  • Consent and your right to say no
  • Equality for girls and all women regardless of age, gender, culture or education
  • Raising awareness about domestic violence
  • Women having fair opportunities for work and equal pay

So I ask why any young person would post a TikTok and describe themselves using degrading hashtags? Why would they film themselves miming songs with degrading lyrics and wearing clothes that degrade their self-worth? This is now how the world online sees them. This is not their best self and does not represent their own values nor their families. Peer pressure is driving this.

Some of the issues behind TikTok include

  • Tik Tok videos are never-ending, and young people can waste many hours, which means young people retreat to bedrooms and spend many hours following, liking and commenting on posts. This can then create stress when school work and study are not complete.
  • Videos of teachers or other students taken without their knowledge for Tik Tok pranks breaches privacy laws. It is against the law to film, share or post videos without permission and is prohibited under the WA Surveillance Devices Act 1998.
  • Comments made on social media about others and how these words can have devastating effects. Many teenagers have experienced this or made a comment online and later regretted it.
  • The reputation of schools, which they work so hard to establish, is damaged by students filming in school uniform or on school grounds or using the school name and then posting on TikTok, particularly if it is the latest TikTok prank.

We want students to be engaged in learning and focussed on building friendships while at school. Research indicates that students who disconnect from social media at school have improved academic performance, behaviour and social engagement.

5 things schools are doing to reduce the impact of TikTok

  1. Ensuring all students are aware of the privacy laws regarding filming, sharing and posting images and that students under 13 are not permitted to have TikTok accounts.
  2. Talking to year groups about the portrayal of women on social media, particularly TikTok and how we can all work together to change this culture of thinking
  3. Ensuring students know the future impact of a poor online presence on employment, leadership and other opportunities.
  4. Updating our school’s social media policy with clear expectations and consequences for not meeting expectations and installing additional tracking software at the College
  5. Limiting mobile phone use at the College to prevent access to social media during school hours.

5 things students can do to be a respectful TikTok users

We cannot stop teenagers from using social media, but we can promote respectful postings and comments.

We need students to:

  1. Be clear about your ‘code’, your values and what is important to you, then use this as a guide to what you post.
  2. ‘Clean up’, delete any inappropriate videos, in uniform, on school grounds or referring to their school, any videos of staff or anything unkind, and unfollow any inappropriate posts.
  3. Ensure all social media accounts are private. TikTok offers some privacy settings that can help control who sees their account and what types of information they share.
  4. Report inappropriate content. If others see inappropriate content on TikTok, they should report it to the platform immediately. You can do this by tapping the ‘Report’ button located under each video.
  5. Have the courage to call out poor behaviour online.

5 things parents can do to help manage their child's TikTok use

  1. Download the TikTok app and search your daughter’s name. You can see her presence or ask her to show you her accounts and understand who they interact with on TikTok. Most parents ignore it instead of being proactive in knowing what is happening.
  2. Have a conversation about social media with your teenager and the importance that women are portrayed as strong, capable individuals who deserve respect. Encourage positive content like creative videos, funny moments, and inspiring messages.
  3. Do not allow your daughter to keep her phone or laptop in her room overnight. Many inappropriate posts and comments are made at all hours of the night. Good, sound sleep is essential for learning and wellbeing.
  4. Ensure that your teenager has rules around holidays and weekend social media usage, especially TikTok, and participates in activities to promote a positive mental state. Provide boundaries of usage, particularly for younger students.
  5. Report any inappropriate content you see online. Keep communication open. Talk to your child about their online activity and let them know that you’re there to help them if they have concerns or see something that makes them feel uncomfortable.

We understand that the world is changing, and social media is a significant aspect of today’s teenagers’ lives. We cannot, however, stand by and condone through silence students having access to inappropriate material, having an effect on others’ wellbeing, or putting others’ reputations at risk. We urge you to discuss the appropriate use of social media with your daughter. Schools need the support of parents. Read your school’s mobile phone and social media policy and support the school with the consequences they determine are appropriate.

The impact of TikTok on young people is significant. As a parent, you can help by monitoring your child’s activity, setting rules and boundaries, and communicating with them about their online activity. As a student, you can help by being mindful of the content you post, ensuring your accounts are private, and reporting any inappropriate content you see. Let’s work together to ensure that TikTok is used in a respectful and positive way. It is hard, but it is important.

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