At first, TikTok was cute.
My 11-year-old was one of the last to get the app in our town. It was adorable watching her practice and master so many new dances. I wondered what could be so bad – it’s fun, it’s creative and she was actually moving around while on her phone. Play dates were easier, and we bonded over her humiliating me while teaching me the moves.
In truth, it’s still fun for her, the majority of the time.
But after downloading the app, logging in as her and following her “friends” for the last few weeks, I am truly scared for the impact this app will have on my child and yours. I say “will” instead of “may,” because I have no doubt that all of our children will be impacted in one way or another.
Let me tell you a little about what I’ve learned.
After downloading the app, logging in as my daughter and following her “friends” for the last few weeks, I am truly scared for the impact this app will have on my child and yours.
Barely any of you are watching your child’s videos or videos they are in with their friends. Would you be surprised to know that your daughter is dancing and mouthing words to songs with the N word, P word, F word, every awful word and phrase you can imagine? Would you be horrified if your daughter posted one about being a slut and getting f&$ked in the p$&@y? That’s just the beginning of what I’ve seen.
These kids don’t necessarily understand the words and the meanings of their posts, as made very clear by the above. One of the most cringeworthy for me was Skanky Fishy. I can’t imagine these 11-year-olds would knowingly post that they have a smelly vagina from an STD.
The “my friend group,” “my besties,” “my squad” posts seem innocent enough, to those parents whose children were included. But what if your child thought they were part of that friend group … and just learned while scrolling through after school that she is not? Multiple times from multiple kids, because they all make different versions of the same video. It could break your heart when you see the “What about me?” comments. It has got to hurt those children. And what about the child who struggles to make friendships or is still finding their place, as many of them are still so young? I’m sure seeing all of these happy squads is making them feel really great about themselves, confident and secure in their relationships (heavy sarcasm).
Would you be surprised to know that your daughter is dancing and mouthing words to songs with every awful word and phrase you can imagine?
My favorites are the “bestie” posts. These girls have so many best friends that it’s impossible for them to understand or know what a true friendship is. What are we teaching our kids if every child, even the one they first played with yesterday, is their best friend? It’s setting them up for a future of hurt and disappointment. And since when is it tactful or kind to blatantly list your six best friends’ names and pictures for all to see? It’s just plain insensitive and promotes exclusivity and cliqueness. Let’s call a spade a spade. For the kids posting their “squad,” a lesson on empathy and inclusiveness may be warranted.
Some of your kids document their whole day on TikTok. Putting aside the safety concerns (especially if the account is public or if they’ve accepted followers they don’t know), it’s just too much! Do they post all day because they are bored and unstimulated or because they want the likes and attention from their followers?
Many of your kids are followed by strangers, even if their account is private. Does your child know and have relationships with 400-plus people? Have you seen the names of some of their friends? I don’t recognize “busstopwheezel” or “lazybitch” from any of the class lists. Some of the accounts they follow send spam to their friends. This may be more Instagram related, but my child has received at least ten messages from her friends alerting her that she did not make the “cool list.” There was no cool list, it was spam. But how many of your kids got that same message, from multiple kids (because they all clicked the same link) and thought it was real?
And then there’s always the porn. Please, parents, make sure your kid’s profiles are private and that you check who they are following and are followed by. You may be surprised.
Let me add that I think that children need to understand from a very young age that they can’t always be included. They won’t be invited to every party, play date or sleepover. Every child faces that truth at some point. But ask your child who happens to be home alone on a weekend what their friends are doing tonight, without having them call or text? She will likely know who played together and at whose house for every part of the day, all from this app. Our kids stalk their friends to see who is together and what, if anything, they are missing out on. It’s creating a generation of pre-teens and tweens with FOMO no adult could emotionally handle.
If you haven’t begun to save up for your child’s mental health bills (and your own), it’s time to start. The anxiety, social pressure and insecurity our children are feeling is only amplified by apps such as TikTok. The solution isn’t getting rid of the app, because there will always be another one. The solution is hands-on parenting. Being a kid these days is hard enough. Talk to your child about self control, compassion and empathy. Educate yourself on how to keep your child safe on these platforms. And most importantly, explain to your child how their posts may effect, and potentially hurt other children.