TikTok in the hot Seat

Teenager Girls, TikTok, internet safety, online safety talks for children
TikTok is under siege from Lawmakers worldwide, impact on Teenage girls highlighted

Will TikTok be a victim of its own success?

TikTok is the world's most popular social media platform, with over one billion active users, most under 30 years of age. TikTok's success is phenomenal. During the COVID-19 pandemic, when people turned to the platform for entertainment and comradeship, it almost became a friend. TikTok was the right product in the right place when Covid-19 struck. Snapchat, Instagram, and Facebook were just not as well placed to claim first prize in the battle for eyeballs during Covid-19.

Facebook looks like a nursing home now, with its ageing user base, and old-style text-based format. TikTok optics and metrics point forward. In March 2023, they announced they had hit 150 million US users. However, TikTok's success has made it a target for governments, regulators, and their jealous American competitors. TikTok has replaced Google's YouTube as No.2 on the Internet behind Google. The Internet is pivoting towards China and India faster than anyone thought possible. TikTok is not all bad of course!

Other social media like Snapchat are glad to be out of sight.

As Europe and the US start dealing with social media portals' impact on kids, teenagers and young adults, it's convenient that China is directly in the line of fire. Chinese prohibits kids from gaming or using social media late at night. TikTok is not available in China.

One issue TikTok is accused of promoting unhealthy body image. TikTok's algorithm recommends content to users based on their previous behaviour and interests. This has led to a proliferation of content promoting unrealistic female physique and beauty, considered devastating to mental well-being, personal regard and social development.

TikTok use by category, TikTok, internet safety, online safety talks for children
TikTok users still love to dance. 

Facebook is still a very bad boy too

For some balance here, Facebook and Instagram face the same issue;

  • Denied knowing about body images issues on Instagram
  • Sat on their FB report confirming this for 2 years
  • Actively dissuaded employees from acting on the information 
  • Instagram's key audience is young women
  • Snapchat & TikTok has shut out Instagram in junior schools

TikTok has introduced new features aimed at promoting body positivity and inclusivity. It launched a campaign called #BodyOddysey, which encourages users to share their journey to self-acceptance and embrace their bodies. TikTok and Instagram now claim to thwart and curate content to stop this. Both portals claim they are now actively prohibiting and curating this content.

TikTok faces its perceived role in spreading misinformation and propaganda. People said TikTok amplified conspiracy theories and fake news, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic. Users posted videos claiming that the virus was a hoax or that wearing masks was ineffective. 

TikTok has partnered with fact-checking organizations and introduced new features to flag and remove false content. It has also updated its community guidelines to prohibit content that spreads misinformation about COVID-19 or other important issues like politics and science.

TikTok's success made it a target of regulatory scrutiny. In the United States, the platform has faced threats of a ban because of concerns about its Chinese ownership and the potential for the Chinese government to access user data. The company denies these allegations, stating that it stores user data in the United States (incl. Europe) and has no ties to the Chinese government.

TikToks China Problem

TikTok actively downplays its Chinese ownership at every opportunity, including the recent appearance of its CEO before a US congressional enquiry. TikTok is increasing the transparency of its data policies, partnering with Oracle to manage US data on American soil. European data centres are being built in Ireland to comply with GPPR.

American tech companies like Google, Meta, Apple, Microsoft and others have violated user privacy for years. Built-in telemetry in Windows has encouraged millions to use Linux for years.

You can tell a company by its competition

Finally, TikTok's success has also made it a target for the competition from other social media platforms and they are jealous as heck of TikToks success. Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat have launched competing features similar to TikTok's short-form video format, such as Instagram Reels and Snapchat Spotlight. 

To stay ahead of the competition, TikTok has continued to innovate and introduce new features to keep users engaged. For example;

  • TikTok LIVE allows users to live-stream to their followers. 
  • TikTok Shopping enables creators to sell products directly to their fans, mainly teenagers, which drives parents nuts. 

All of which sounds very similar to 'Loot box' promotions on gaming platforms.

US Congress questioning of TikTok CEO was embarrassing

Governments worldwide, especially the US Congress, will continue its peacockery like the March 24th blood sport grilling of TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew. Their questioning was rude, partisan, and embarrassing. 

The bottom line is that Bytedance, the Beijing-based owner of TikTok, cannot deny that the CCP, the Chinese Communist Party, has access to TikTok servers, data and code. This frightens western governments and binds Russia & China together, with them musing over what the CIA has been doing for the last 30 years on behalf of American interests.

It won't end well. 

TikTok Factoids

  • 54% of TikTok users are female and 46% are male.
  • Roughly 25% of TikTok’s global audience are women between 18 and 24 years old.
  • 17% of the platform’s audience are men between 18 and 24 years old.
  • 55+ year-olds are the smallest group on TikTok, at 1.7%.
  • As of 2023, the US. has the most TikTok users (150 million), followed by Indonesia (110 million), Brazil (82 million), and Mexico (58 million)
  • Nearly half of Gen Z is using TikTok and Instagram for search instead of Google, according to Google’s own internal data.
  • 33% of TikTok users say they regularly get their news from the app, according to Pew Research.
  • 9 out of TikTok's top 10 markets by penetration are in South East Asia.

Articles of Interest

Articles, Links & Connections from the Internet Safety Talks site you might find interesting

  1. What is Sexting
  2. Help! I just saw a naked picture of my teen on her phone
  3. TikTok & Instagram move to improve Child Safety
  4. Can the Police search your Phone?
  5. TikTok Safety for Kids - TikTok Safety 
  6. Rules for 5 - 8 year-olds online 5 - 8 Years  


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