Students spend more and more time on app, distracts them from other important responsibilities
The popular entertainment and social media app TikTok has changed the way that many teens spend time on their phones and has also affected other aspects of their life. According to Business Insider, as of December 2019, TikTok was the seventh most downloaded app of the past decade with 1.3 billion downloads since its launch in 2018.
Students often spend an average of two to four hours a day on the app, according to a Nov. 9 poll of 141 students. They scroll through the app’s “For You” page and look at the content of the creators they follow. Furthermore, 55 percent of students use TikTok more than other apps. Senior Zaria Osimetha believes that the app increases her procrastination when it comes to doing work but can educate her on politics and other news.
“I go on TikTok every day and usually about once an hour, which probably adds up to about three hours a day,” Osimetha said. “I mostly look at my ‘For You’ page because it changes based on what I like, and that is super useful in keeping up with my interests. For a while my ‘For You’ page was just cooking videos, but it is usually just funny stuff I find entertaining.”
The app also is the platform for many political creators who report political news and other content on their page. These videos mainly appear on the ‘For You’ page which gives recommended content and often takes a stance on issues that are similar to the user’s interests.
“I would say that TikTok helps me stay aware of the news, but it’s not my primary source,” Osimetha said. “I would say that my feed is about 10 percent news content. I think that it is factual, but I think it is biased to a certain political angle. For example, if a popular creator like Charli D’Amelio started making a news channel, then yes, that would be harmful because I think she is not a reliable source and could be biased.”
Although only some of the content is politically related, it can have an impact on the thought process of teens. Twenty-three percent of students reported that the app has influenced their political beliefs.
“I definitely think more about politics because of TikTok,” senior Rylie Dupuis said. “I think that the creators who get on the ‘For You’ page can rally their political parties and definitely put you against the other one. I see political things on my friends’ phones too, so I do think that it could have a polarizing effect on younger people.”
But the app can also help keep people up to date with pop-culture and can be a good way to stay in touch with trends. One of the most popular trends on the app is dancing videos, which can get millions of views and be replicated by multiple users.
“I would say I spend about two hours a day on the app mostly just watching funny videos along with dancing and fashion,” senior Katherine Cowser said. “These videos are usually on my ‘For You’ page, so I don’t have a specific creator I follow or anything like that. I like the app, but it can be counterproductive for me at times.”
The app allows any user to create content that can be published for anyone to view. The more successful creators on the app can have millions of fans, with the top creator being Charli D’Amelio, a 15 year old with over 95 million followers.
“I sometimes make videos, but most of the ones I make are not to try to actually get views or likes, they are just for my entertainment,” Dupuis said. “It is really hard to get a video that goes viral, and I do not want to have my content seen by that many people. I usually just use the app when I want to kill some time on my phone. I would definitely say I spend the most time on it, and it is an issue for me.”
The popularity of the app increased during the COVID-19 pandemic, as more people were inclined to download the app as a source of entertainment. That was the case for sophomore Elliot McCabe.
“I never seriously considered getting the app until March of 2020 when we started having to stay at home,” McCabe said. “It was definitely one of my main sources of entertainment during quarantine, and I still use it a decent amount.”
But not everyone is a fan. Some teens have chosen not to download the app, despite its popularity—they don’t see a need when there are other sources of entertainment. There are also significant privacy issues and safety concerns regarding the app’s connection with the Chinese government being that the app is owned by ByteDance, a Chinese company.
For senior Max Moorman, TikTok was never a platform he was interested in.
“I never really saw a need to download the app when there are other platforms like Instagram where you can get basically the same type of content,” Moorman said. “I have seen people waste a huge amount of time on the app, and it really doesn’t interest me. I also think there are some privacy issues with the app in regards to China, so it’s just another reason for me not to use it.”