TikTok: What students think about the controversial app

Six in ten American teenagers use the social media app TikTok to create and view short videos like pranks, trendy dances, comedy and activism. What do Carlsbad teens actually think about this app? 

Sophomore Ava Grosely sees a wide variety of videos on TikTok, including cooking and people talking about politics. She enjoys using this platform, but views it as just another social media app akin to Instagram and Snapchat. Grosely also recognizes that TikTok can be harmful to its users, especially teenagers, because of the overwhelming amount of information that viewers are fed every time they open the app.

“I think it has been detrimental in some ways because there’s a bunch of information that’s pouring out, and no one can really focus on one thing,” Grosely said. “I’ve kind of taken some time off it, even though there’s still a lot of time I’ve spent on it.”

I think it has been detrimental in some ways because there’s a bunch of information that’s pouring out, and no one can really focus on one thing

— Ava Grosely (10)

Accessibility is one of the main reasons why so many teens enjoy TikTok. All five interviewees said that the app caters to their needs, and they see exactly the kind of videos that entertain them. The interviewees also have observed a rise in their usage of TikTok since the beginning of quarantine. Some say it is because they have more time on their hands; others explain that the large amount of stress caused by the pandemic led them to want an escape. Global usage of this app has risen almost 800% since January 2018, according to a study at CNBC News.

TikTok is one of the main platforms that teens use to get informed and connected with people with common interests. Junior Jewel Mitchell views videos ranging from boys in skirts to babies. Mitchell also posts her own content of her friends and daily life, and is proud of the views she received on some of her most viral videos. She reflects that this app helps keep her busy during tough times.

 “I’m just sad, and it’s something to do,” Mitchell said.

TikTok has gained more media attention after Trump announced that this platform was to be banned in the U.S. to protect the privacy of American citizens. On Aug. 6, the president released an executive order proposing restrictions on this Chinese-owned application.

TikTok automatically captures vast swaths of information from its users, including Internet and other network activity information such as location data and browsing and search histories,” Trump wrote in the executive order. “This data collection threatens to allow the Chinese Communist Party access to Americans’ personal and proprietary information — potentially allowing China to track the locations of Federal employees and contractors.” 

 Although this ban never went through, it caused quite a stir amongst the TikTok community. Junior Xander Turk believes that the possible bans or restrictions of the U.S. government on TikTok are justifiable, and thinks the best way to solve the possible issue of the Chinese government getting information on American viewers is for an American company to develop its own video app. Others, like his friends juniors Aaron McKeeman and Jewel Mitchell, are not fazed by the possibility of foreign governments having their information. 

“I feel like I don’t have a lot of personal information, and if I did, I wouldn’t really mind if the government had it, because I don’t know what they would do with it,” Mitchell said. “I don’t think I’d care.”