The following is excerpted from an online article posted by HealthDay.
In the fall of 2021, TikTok announced a major milestone to coincide with its fifth anniversary: The amassing of roughly 1 billion global users, many of them young, turning to the app every month as a way to view, make and share bite-sized videos.
But what exactly do those young users think of the app? Is it a boon to their self-esteem and creativity, or an addictive time-waster that creates unhealthy competition and expectations?
A small, new study suggests the answer is likely both.
“TikTok is an app used by many adolescents that features short videos on a wide range of topics,” explained study author Bradley Kerr. He is a researcher in the department of pediatrics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Medicine and Public Health.
Despite its meteoric rise in popularity, “we haven’t seen much research on how TikTok is related to mental health outcomes for adolescents,” Kerr noted.
To fill in the blanks, he and his colleagues decided to solicit the opinions of 31 teens.
All were between the ages of 13 and 18 (average age of 16). Evenly divided between boys and girls, nearly all (29) said they had at least one social media account. The study team noted that more than 60% of American teens say they regularly use TikTok.
Following a series of Zoom-based focus group sessions, investigators identified a number of recurring themes.
The first appeared to be mostly positive, given that “TikTok is really good at connecting [teens] with content that is interesting to them, and that they can enjoy with their peers,” Kerr said.
At the same time, some kids were uncomfortable with the addictive nature of the app.
“When I do [use TikTok],” one of the teens explained, “I go on it for hours at a time without realizing it because I’ll just keep scrolling and I’m like, ‘OK, this is the last one'”… only to keep on scrolling. Another described getting “sucked in.”
In addition, some respondents suggested that the app’s video avalanche of perfect bodies and seemingly perfect lives can undermine self-esteem.
“Seeing someone’s really nice house, or someone’s really cute dog, or happy family, there’s just so much content that you can just constantly compare,” said one teen.
“While future studies are needed to understand these key research areas, we hope that parents and health care providers will ask adolescents about both benefits and concerns in their use of TikTok,” Kerr said.
The findings were presented at a meeting of the Pediatric Academic Societies, in Denver. Such research should be considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.