When it comes to social media, teens aren’t really flocking to Facebook and Twitter anymore, or even Snapchat. There’s a new kid in town and its name is TikTok. TikTok is a platform that allows users to create short videos incorporating music, and it’s become wildly popular in just a matter of months.
TikTok might be making older generations shake their heads and say “kids these days,” but it’s important for parents and educators to understand the impact that social media platforms are having on kids’ lives. Cyberbullying is a real problem, and TikTok may be adding to the problem. Here’s what we all need to know about what’s going on within the TikTok platform.
Is TikTok Rewarding Teenage Hazing?
There are a lot of funny, silly, and even heartwarming videos on TikTok. But there’s a darker side, too. Videos that are shared on the platform can quickly go viral, and what might be a “funny” video might actually be humiliation and hazing.
Defined as any action or situation that deliberately causes harm or humiliation, Hazing most often occurs within organized groups of young people as an initiation ritual. Hazing has been a problem on college campuses in the United States for over 150 years, and it continues to put students at risk.
Today, humiliation from hazing can be even more severe and lasting due to platforms like TikTok. Students can film a hazing incident and share it with the world, causing lasting harm and a digital record that’s almost impossible to erase. Additionally, “going viral” with a hazing video could even reward the instigators since the videos get so much attention.
How Big of an Issue is TikTok Bullying?
Some people might argue that incidents of bullying and hazing on TikTok are isolated and that the problem isn’t widespread. Unfortunately, this doesn’t seem to be the case. So why is TikTok a hotspot for bullies?
Experts think that it has something to do with a combination of the platform’s popularity and the anonymity that users enjoy. People aren’t directly connected, so they don’t feel that they’re held accountable for their behavior.
While there are privacy settings that teens and parents can use to prevent bullying (allowing only people they know contact them), they’re not always used and might not be totally effective. Cyberbullying is very common among teens who know each other.
TikTok Has Even Addressed This Issue
Because cyberbullying has become a problem on the platform, TikTok has even stepped in to address the issue. They now include a bullying resource page in their Safety Center, explaining the app settings that help protect users.
In addition to offering different privacy settings, TikTok allows users to delete comments on their videos and block users who bully them. It’s important for parents and teens to understand these options and to use them in order to prevent harassment and cyberbullying. Teens need the knowledge, tools, and empowerment to protect themselves!
How to Report TikTok Hazing, Sexual Violence & Cyberbullying
TikTok encourages users to report harassment and other inappropriate behavior so that it can be investigated and dealt with. If you or your child has been harassed on TikTok, it’s important to speak up.
Parents need to be involved in their children’s online activity. Many kids don’t feel comfortable speaking up against bullies. This is also common for victims of sexual assault.
On TikTok, at least, you can report abusive users on behalf of someone else. While it’s better to empower youth to acknowledge and recognize harassment, the number one priority should be keeping kids safe. We should always be looking out for others and be prepared to step in if needed.
How to Help Prevent Cyberbullying On TikTok (Hint: Don’t Give it Any Attention)
Obviously, prevention is better than dealing with the harmful effects of cyberbullying. It’s crucially important to discuss the issue with your teen before it becomes a problem.
Simply talking to your teen about what is and isn’t harassment won’t prevent all bullying. But it should help to teach them about what behavior is unacceptable and how to report a bully if they do ever experience cyberbullying.
In addition to discussing privacy settings, reporting, and what constitutes inappropriate behavior, remember to tell your teen not to engage. Bullies want that attention, and engaging with harassment usually leads to worse trouble.
Let your child know you’re there for them if they ever need help. Cyberbullying on TikTok should be taken seriously!