Local expert weighs in as states investigate how TikTok affects kids

Published: Mar. 7, 2022 at 6:12 AM CST
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QUINCY (WGEM) - Multiple states, including Missouri, have launched investigations into TikTok over concerns the wildly popular social media app is negatively affecting children’s mental health through the imagery they are exposed to.

Government officials and child-safety advocates maintain that TikTok’s computer algorithms pushing video content to users can promote eating disorders and even self-harm and suicide to young viewers.

Investigators said they’re looking to find out if TikTok is violating the law in promoting its platform to young people.

Those at the the Child Advocacy Center of Northeast Missouri said some content found on the app can make kids feel self-conscious and depressed and they’re shocked at how young some of the users are.

Prevention Education Specialist Melissa Miller said she is finding kids as young as eight have access to TikTok, despite having to be 13 to have an account.

“They want to keep up with their friends so we have some kids who are getting on these apps at younger ages so when they are starting to develop these feelings of self-consciousness and what they look like and they’re bombarded with all these images, it can start earlier and earlier unfortunately,” she said.

Miller said it’s important for children to talk to their parents if they see anything harmful or anything that concerns them.

She said parents need to be willing to have conversations with their children about what they see, and work to educate themselves about the app as well.

Miller said when she’s talked to children who have seen disturbing content on TikTok. She says man are nervous to tell their parents because they are afraid of losing their devices or getting into trouble. She said parents have to set ground rules for their kids and their devices.

“Some of the things I recommend, not downloading apps without parental consent,” Miller said. “And as a grown up, you should research that app a little bit before you let them have it.”

Child Advocacy Center of Northeast Missouri does offer resources and information to better inform parents about TikTok and other social media and apps.

She said for parents with kids on TikTok, there are are some safeguards that can help with privacy concerns and they have some tools to limit content children can see, but they’re not the best.

Miller said parents should also look for signs of their children being effected by harmful content. Some signs include kids withdrawing or not being as social, dressing differently or being a part of different friend groups and ditching their longtime friends.

The Child Advocacy Center of Northeast Missouri offers resources for parents, they contact Melissa Miller at mmiller@cacnemo.org or (573) 221-2256. They can also go to their website at https://www.cacnemo.org/

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