The Negative Impact of TikTok on Teens

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The Negative Impact of TikTok on Teens

January 21, 2020
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Dangerous Social media challenges

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Table of Contents

TikTok is a massively popular video app among teens and tweens. Users can upload and share 60 second videos of themselves dancing, lip syncing, or doing dangerous or provocative stunts. Parents should learn what TikTok is and then talk with their kids about properly using the app.

TikTok App logo
Learn how to keep your kids safe on the Tik Tok app

Teen TikTok Statistics

  • TikTok had 800 million monthly active users in April 2020, according to
  • The average user spends 52 minutes per day on TikTok. (Source: BusinessOfApps)
  • 90% of TikTok users visit the app more than once per day. (Source: GlobalWebIndex)
  • Average time spent in the app, according to TikTok, is nearly 5 minutes, longer than both Snapchat and Instagram. (Source: Digiday)
TikTok App screen shot showing a phone with a girl looking  at her camera
TikTok App

What Is TikTok?

TikTok is an app that allows users to watch and upload 60 second videos of everything from dancing to lip syncing to funny animal videos.

A “For You” page is curated for each user, based on the interests you choose when you make a profile. Users can follow, comment, and like each video.

The accounts you follow are then collected in your “Following” feed, which you can swipe through to watch. The Discover feature allows you to search for accounts and hashtags that you are interested in.

What students think of the TikTok app (video interview)

TikTok In The News

NBC headline: What is TikTok? And is it safe? A guide for clueless parents. This hot social media app can foster creativity and socilization, but parents-and kids-need to know the risks
Vivian Manning-Schaffel told NBC News her 12-year-old daughter is “obsessed with TikTok. She loves to edit videos and lip sync, and this app allows her to do what she enjoys. She can create funny, humorous scenarios and express herself with song.” NBC News
But another mom, Tricia Cuthbertson, has a warning for other parents. She told NBC News her daughter’s friend downloaded TikTok onto her daughter’s phone to post videos of the two of them. “In the matter of an hour, she has 20 followers, all men, and they were starting to make [inappropriate] comments.”
WDBJ CBS 7 headline: Report: Online predators use teen app TikTok to solicit children
“The tech website Motherboard investigated the app and found a large community of adult users on TikTok soliciting nude photos from kids. Some of those users even sent explicit videos to children.” WDBJ7
WCPO 9 headline: Lakota West football player dismissed after orchestrating girl's social media bullying. Her mother says she wants to see consequences for others who participated.
“A… football player was dismissed from the team Friday, and several more will face “serious consequences” after recording and sharing a TikTok video bullying a female classmate” - WCPO Cincinnati

What Some Parents Say About TikTok

**Warning....this app contains Adult Video Content!**

"After I started exploring the app, I realize that at the bottom of the video people could put hashtags. I clicked on a hash tag, which took me to another video with a different suggestive sounding hashtag at the bottom that I clicked on, which then took me to videos that were Adult content."  Parent on Common Sense Media

Caution! Very fun but not for Tweens!

"The BIG problem is that a lot of the available music and sound bites contain all the very adult language and innuendo you hear on the radio. So when left to her own devices, I found my 10 year old lip syncing to suggestive lyrics she didn't even understand... What's worse is that the rating system becomes addictive… [My daughter] and her friends kept pushing the envelope to see how many "likes" they could get. What originally was supposed to be a private account became public for the thrill of getting the approval of strangers."  Parent on Common Sense Media

What Can Parents Do?

  • Know your child's username and follow them
  • Make younger students set their account to private
  • Use TikTok's Family Pairing feature
  • Keep an open dialogue about the types of videos they watch and post
  • Become a TikTok expert and learn the app's safety settings in our new course How Tik Tok Works and How to Make it Safer for Students
  • Advise your students that negative posts can come back to hurt their reputation in the future, especially with colleges and future employers
  • Remind your teen it’s okay to be silly and have fun on social media as long as they are positive and kind to others

Potential Negative Effects of TikTok

Addiction: Since the app boasts an “endless stream” of material, students are likely to spend a long time in the app and might even become addicted to watching the videos for hours at a time.

Bullying: A high school principal in New York tells Smart Social Founder Josh Ochs that students are being bullied on TikTok. Some students are making fun of each other's videos, while others are making videos just to ridicule their fellow students.

Comparison: Some students make outrageous, and even dangerous, videos to get more likes and followers. Hashtag challenges are an easy way to gain likes, but some of the challenges are not appropriate for tweens and teens.

Safety Concerns: Apps like TikTok can easily be used by predators to solicit minors because the app makes it easy for strangers to direct message children. "There are no restrictions as to who can join the app and it is used internationally, connecting virtually everyone," explained Digital Family Expert Theresa Desuyo, at the parental control software company Qustodio.

Mental Health: Some experts report it can be easy to come across triggering content on the app that could promote issues like self-harm or eating disorders.

How Bad Content Impacts Students on Social Media (Student Interview)


TikTok is a fun and creative outlet for users to post dance compilations, tell funny jokes, and show off their talents. But some of the content users post can contain explicit language, suggestive themes, and lewd gestures.

Smart Social recommends using the app's Family Pairing feature and talking with your students about safe and smart social media practices, if you allow them to use the TikTok app.

Take our course: How TikTok Works and How to Make it Safer for Students

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