A coalition of US attorneys have launched an investigation on the effects of TikTok on young people’s mental and physical health. The group aims to find out if TikTok’s design, operation and marketing aspects have a negative effect on children, teens, and young adults’ health.
The algorithm that controls the content users see on TikTok has proven to be extremely effective in keeping users engaged with the app. While the company has provided some insight into how it operates, detailed data is difficult to come by except for leaks and educated conjecture. The investigation will therefore focus on “the strategies and techniques” TikTok employs to “increase the duration of time spent on the platform” and “improve young user engagement.”
The app which is known for attracting younger users has in the past attempted to make the app more secure for people under 16 years. The company had to pay a $5.7 million settlement in the past for allowing younger users to sign up on the platform without parental consent.
Under the settlement, TikTok was expected to carefully control how users under the age of 13 could interact with the app’s content. Despite its enormous user base, some experts have recently raised concerns about how little studies have looked at TikTok’s potential health effects.
TikTok spokesperson Ben Rathe said the company appreciates that someone is looking into the youngsters safety on the app and that they are looking forward to “providing information on the many safety and privacy protections” it has for younger users.
Regulators have been paying special attention to the protection of youngsters online. President Biden addressed the issue in his State of the Union address last week, urging Congress to approve legislation governing children’s privacy and advertising.
TikTok rported more than a billion monthly users in its 2021 report, and is one of the most popular apps even in Kenya. The younger generation have taken up TikTok and Instagram as opposed to social media apps such as Facebook and Twitter.