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TikTok stifles youth development and education­—if left unrestricted

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” The adverse effect of TikTok and other addictive online contents on our youth should be given equal importance as the app’s security threat.”

President Joe Biden has every legitimate reason to ban TikTok in the US, unless the app’s Chinese parent, ByteDance, sells it to an approved buyer not later than January 19, 2025.

Mr. Biden, along with American politicians, law enforcement agencies and intelligence officials, fear Chinese authorities could force ByteDance to release data from 170 million Americans, who use the TikTok social media platform.

The concern is rooted in Chinese national security laws that oblige organizations to help in intelligence gathering, although TikTok has denied sharing US user data.

TikTok’s supposed security threat is paramount to the US. Equally significant, however, is TikTok’s unsavory influence on the youth. Virtually all of the Philippines’ strategic and economic allies have initiated restrictions or active investigations into the negative educational and mental health effects of TikTok and other addictive online content providers.

The Philippine military is understandably worried over the personal data that TikTok has amassed from its Filipino users. But Senator Sherwin Gatchalian sees TikTok’s threat to the educational achievement, mental health and economic future of Philippine youth more disturbing.

The popular short-form video hosting service has been embroiled in past controversies involving teens.

Underage users, according to information reported to Wikipedia, may inadvertently reveal their daily routine and whereabouts, raising concerns of potential misuse by sexual predators.

The free, open content online encyclopedia reported that comment sections of “sexy” videos, such as young girls dancing in revealing clothes, were found to contain requests for nude pictures.

TikTok’s influence on the youth can also lead to fatal consequences.

The Italian Data Protection Authority on Januar4y 22, 202 demanded that TikTok temporarily suspend Italian users whose age could not be established. Its order came after the death of a 10-year-old Sicilian girl involved in an Internet challenge. TikTok asked its users in Italy to confirm again that they were over 13 years old. By May, over 500,000 accounts had been removed for failing the age check.

The youth’s addiction to TikTok and their mental health are also worrisome. There are concerns that some users may find it hard to stop using TikTok.

Tiktok’s Chinese version, Douyin, added in April 2018 an addiction-reduction feature that encouraged users to take a break every 90 minutes. The same feature was introduced to the TikTok app later in the same year. TikTok uses popular influencers to encourage viewers to stop using the app and take a break.

Many, according to Wikipedia, were also concerned with the app influencing users’ attention span due to the short-form nature of the content. The apprehension is well founded. Many of TikTok’s audience are younger children, whose brains are still developing.

Thus, in March 2022, a coalition of US state attorneys general launched an investigation into TikTok’s effect on children’s mental health.

The TikTok media platform has become a minefield for unsuspecting children. Since 2021, accounts engaging with contents related to suicide, self-harm or eating disorder received similar videos.

TikTok has faced multiple lawsuits pertaining to wrongful deaths and the app said it was working to break up these “rabbit holes.”

Given the slew of concerns about TikTok’s adverse impact on the youth, it is no wonder that Philippine political, social media and public education leaders are again shaking their heads in frustration over the country’s absence in the global debate to limit the negative effects of TikTok on youth and educational development.

The adverse effect of TikTok and other addictive online contents on our youth should be given equal importance as the app’s security threat.

In the wake of the poor global rating of the Philippine youth in educational achievements, many consider the addictive, sensationalist and distorted content on TikTok, combined with its integrated consumer manipulation, as significant roadblocks to improving the country’s literacy.

It is not too late, though to stem TikTok’s tide. Other nations have found the mental fortitude to restrain or ban the app. The Philippines should join the offensive now.

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