It’s no secret that social media gives us endless "Keeping Up With The Joneses" syndrome. We all have to be as good as the next person, have the best things and continuously one-up those around us. While all platforms are far from healthy, one in particular is being examined for its impact on the mental health of our youth: TikTok.
The Associated Press reports that state attorney generals in select states have launched a nationwide investigation into the potential harmful effects that TikTok has on its young users. Announced on Wednesday, March 2, it’s being led by California, Kentucky, Florida, Nebraska, Massachusetts, Tennessee, Vermont and New Jersey.
"Our children are growing up in the age of social media — and many feel like they need to measure up to the filtered versions of reality that they see on their screens," said California Attorney General Rob Bonta in a news release. "We know this takes a devastating toll on children’s mental health and well-being."
Bonta also revealed that the investigation aims to get "much-needed answers," while looking at the methods that TikTok uses to get more engagement from users.
Federal regulators in the United States have criticized TikTok's promotion and practices for centering content that can harmfully impact the mental and physical health of younger users who dominate the platform’s user base.
While TikTok is the latest platform to deal with this, Instagram has also been in the crosshairs of federal regulators for a while now. Last year, a similar coalition of state attorneys launched an investigation into Instagram because of its impacts on younger people.
"For too long, Meta has ignored the havoc that Instagram is wreaking on the mental health and well-being of our children and teens," Bonta said back then. "Enough is enough. We’ve undertaken this nationwide investigation to get answers about Meta’s efforts to promote the use of this social media platform to young Californians — and to determine if, in doing so, Meta violated the law."
While some responsibility probably does fall on the users themselves, it’s also clear that these platforms need to do a better job of the way that content is not only promoted, but how much of it is censored when it comes to younger users. For instance, the extremely dangerous Benadryl challenge, when people overdose on Benadryl, is one of many trends that teenagers often participate in on the platform.
Then there's people ingesting food coloring or peeing their pants with a poker face on, all because of #content. The platform's "methods and techniques" to increase engagement practices that are currently being investigated play into how often these trends arise.
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