Negative Impact of TikTok on Teens

, you're logged in!
February 28, 2023

Become a member or log in to learn more on this topic

Superintendents, Directors and Principals: Request a partnership on this page to unlock our resources for your whole community.

Unlock this lesson to learn the Negative Impact of TikTok on Teens

This guide will help parents learn:

  • What parents can do to keep students safe on TikTok
  • What are the potential negative effects of TikTok
  • What TikTok safety settings we recommend

In this guide, parents & educators will learn:

Log in or join the VIP membership today to view all resources about the Negative Impact of TikTok on Teens!

Become a member or log in to learn more on this topic

Superintendents, Directors and Principals: Request a partnership on this page to unlock our resources for your whole community.

Quotation marks

This is great info, thanks for giving me some ideas on how to start a dialogue with my teen!


Sharon M.

Parent VIP Member

Quotation marks

Josh's presentation about social media was unbelievably fantastic. Our students learned so much about what kids should and shouldn't be doing. The fact that it is such a thoughtful process made it all worthwhile.


Director of College Advising

Educator Webinar Attendee

Quotation marks

This webinar is a very helpful eye-opener on the apps that are popular with my students.


Irene C.

Educator Webinar Attendee

Table of Contents

TikTok is a massively popular video app among teens and tweens. Users can upload and share 15-second to 3-minute videos of themselves dancing, lip-syncing, teaching a skill, or highlighting a hobby. Unfortunately, TikTok can also have a negative impact on teens by encouraging them to participate in dangerous social media challenges, connecting them with bullies or predators, or encouraging screen time addiction. Parents should learn what TikTok is and then talk with their kids about properly using the app.

Parent and Educator Video

(Click on the three lines or in the video progress bar to skip to a chapter)

What can parents do?

  • Create your own TikTok account and try it for yourself
  • Ask your student to show you the app, and videos that they have enjoyed, and then watch positive content together as a family
  • Talk as a family about setting screen time limits and use your device's settings (or the app's settings) to help regulate the time each person spends on TikTok
TikTok App logo
Learn how to keep your kids safe on the Tik Tok app

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 SmartSocial 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 dangerous videos to get more likes and followers. Social media challenges can be an easy way to gain likes, but some of the challenges are not appropriate for tweens and teens and can potentially encourage teens to break the law.

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. The Center for Countering Digital Hate found that when they created new accounts with the age set to 13 years old, TikTok recommended “harmful” content, “sometimes as rapidly as every 27 to 39 seconds.” This included self-harm and eating disorder content. (Source: GMA)

Settings we’d recommend on TikTok

How to set daily limits on TikTok

  • Click on your profile image and then the three lines in the upper right-hand corner of the screen on the TikTok app
  • Click “Settings and Privacy” then select “Screen time”
  • Click “daily screen time” and select the time frame you want for daily app use

How to set reminders to take breaks from TikTok

  • Click on your profile image and then the three lines in the upper right-hand corner of the screen on the TikTok app
  • Click “Settings and Privacy,” then select “Screen time”
  • Click “screen time breaks” and select the time frame you want to be able to use TikTok before getting a reminder to take a break and being asked to enter a pin number. Parents can set this pin number, so students are not able to override it

TikTok in the news

Deseret News Investigation: Does TikTok have a bad effect on kids' mental health?
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. -California’s Attorney General, Rob Bonta, Deseret News
NBC News What is TikTok? And is it safe? A guide for clueless parents. This hot social media app can foster creativity and socialization, but parents - and kids- need to know the risks
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. - NBC News
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 Cincinnati,  Lakota West football player dismissed after orchestrating girls 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 students think of the TikTok app (video interview)

What 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. - 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.  -  Common Sense Media


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, and since the app’s algorithm is designed to be addictive, teens may have difficulty turning off the app.

Smart Social recommends creating a family media agreement WITH your students while discussing appropriate use of the app and using the screen time limit settings within TikTok and your device to help your student use it in a balanced way. 

Listen to Titania Jordan from Bark discuss TikTok with Josh Ochs on the SmartSocial Podcast:

Listen to Rachel and Andrea discuss the negative impact of TikTok on the MomTalk Podcast by SmartSocial:

Share Your Thoughts With Our Team

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
Become a Very Informed Parent (VIP) to get our social media suggestions in your email every Tuesday & Thursday.
Dotted arrow to right
Learn about our
"Very Informed Parent" 
VIP Program
Right arrow
Josh Ochs headshot Round
Schools & Districts: Partner with us to protect your community online

Our remote presentations (and website) teaches over a million students each year how to shine online. We teach students how their accounts can be used to create a portfolio of positive accomplishments that impress colleges and employers.

Partner with
Right arrow
SmartSocial podcast logo
Join Our Smart Social Podcast each week on iTunes

With over 240 episodes, Josh Ochs interviews psychologists, therapists, counselors, teachers, and parents while showing you how to navigate social media to someday shine online.

Listen on:

Apple Podcasts
Google Podcasts

Here are some of the latest resources at