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Investigation: Does TikTok have a bad effect on kids’ mental health?

Several states launch investigations into TikTok’s effect on the health of children

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The TikTok app logo appears in Tokyo.

In this Sept. 28, 2020, photo, the TikTok app logo appears in Tokyo. State attorneys general have launched a nationwide investigation into TikTok and its possible harmful effects on young users’ mental health, widening government scrutiny of the wildly popular video platform. The investigation was announced Wednesday, March 2, 2022, by a number of states led by California, Florida, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Nebraska, New Jersey, Tennessee and Vermont.

Kiichiro Sato, Associated Press

In a bipartisan effort, several attorneys general from around the country are launching investigations into TikTok and the effect it has on the physical and mental health of the nation’s children, according to The Associated Press.

The investigation: At least eight states are holding investigations into the video-sharing platform, according to The New York Times.

  • The focus of the investigation is to identify the dangers TikTok poses to children, and if the people running the app are aware of these harms, reads a statement from the California attorney general’s office.

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

  • Some experts believe that TikTok’s algorithm can promote content related to depression, anxiety and eating disorders, according to CBS News.
  • In 2021, The Wall Street Journal conducted its own investigation into the app.
  • The journal created 100 “bot” accounts, giving them each different ages, genders, locations and interests.
  • The bots were programmed to linger on videos that related to their programmed interests. These interests were never entered into the app. One bot was given an interest in sadness and depression-related videos.
  • Within 36 minutes of creating this bot account, the TikTok algorithm learned that the user was interested in depression-related content.
  • Eventually, about 93% of the content on the bots “for you” page was about sadness and depression.
  • “Officially, the company says that shares, likes, follows and what you watch all play a role in what TikTok shows you,” said The Wall Street Journal. “We found that TikTok only needs one of these to figure you out, how long you linger over a piece of content. Every second you hesitate or rewatch, the app is tracking you.”

What is TikTok?: TikTok is a short video sharing app that was created in 2016. With one billion active monthly users, TikTok is the fastest-growing social media app, according to the app’s statistics.