When TikTok first came out, and my kids were making duet, dancing videos with their friends, I thought it was funny and cute. I really didn’t understand how the whole thing worked because — as my kids often tell me — I am “not smart like that.”
Fast forward a few years and I still barely understand it, yet I’ve realized something: how important it is that I change that. I need to understand it, and keep up to-date-on all things TikTok, for the safety of my kids.
After hearing them say things like “You shouldn’t use this product, and not this one because I heard on TikTok it’s bad for you,” and realizing it has become their news source on all things COVID-19 and this upcoming election, I’m literally losing my mind.
Not to mention all the scary trends and challenges that are in their face when they are scrolling.
First, every parent wants to believe their child knows better and would never take several Benadryl in order to get high, but some teens have done just that, thanks to a TikTok challenge.
We’d like to think our kids wouldn’t do their own dental work, but, well, TikTok has them filing down their teeth.
Oh, and news flash: some people started eating cereal out of each other’s mouths as another fun way to pass the time.
There have been several others too you may or may not have heard of. The salt and ice challenge, the outlet challenge, the fuller lip challenge, which is supposed to give you fuller lips but had disastrous results.
I think as parents we need to wake up to the hard truth: our teens are watching this stuff, oftentimes alone in their rooms, and if they’re seeing something that looks like it works, is fun, or will get them lots of views, they are tempted to try it.
Some of these trends and challenges may look harmless and may be harmless, for the most part, but many of them can go wrong.
Our kids certainly see us as old, out-of-touch people who don’t know anything, and this is their way of life — living through their phones, being influenced by these apps and wanting to fit in. Like it or not (I don’t like it; I’m tired), we have to somehow figure out how to parent our children who are being bombarded by the conspiracy theories, products, and trends that are on these apps.
There’s no escape like there was for us in high school. Of course we did really stupid things like sucking helium out of balloons, sniffing glue, and that trick where you did a handstand for as long as you could, then had your friend choke you until you passed out. I was too afraid to try any of them, as were most of the kids I knew, but would sitting with a group of my friends all night watching videos of that stuff changed my mind?
Perhaps I would have thought everyone was doing it, and see the things played out where nothing bad happened. And if I got a good laugh, some attention, and a lot of “likes” to boot, would have changed my 14-year-old mind?
Lately I’ve heard my kids talk about PizzaGate, otherwise known as Hillary Clinton setting up a sex traffic ring. They believed it because they saw several videos about it on TikTok. They aren’t the only ones either; according to a report in the New York Times, these posts have over 800,000 views.
My son was so convinced Wayfair was doing the same thing a few months ago that we got into a legitimate argument because I asked him what his source was.
It was, of course, TikTok.
Hearing that made me want to knock on his forehead and ask him to take several moments and think about the fact he is living, breathing, and basing his facts based on what a teenager said in a less than 60 seconds.
My mind has legit broken in several places when they tell me something that’s “happening in the news” and it sounds so incredibly outlandish — but to them, it’s the solid truth.
We have to realize how entertaining this is for our teens, and how inexperienced they are at discerning the inaccurate sources from the real, reliable ones (a skill that many adults don’t even possess). And then, with a click of a button, they can comment, share and create more hype and get these balls rolling. After all, many of them believe if it’s viewed several million times and has been shared all over the world, it must be true.
I don’t care if your teenager makes the honor roll, or has always seemed to have a lot of common sense. Our kids believe this stuff, they are doing this stuff, and you might not even know the half it.
As a mother to several teens, I’m exhausted, and I don’t want to keep up with this shit. But it’s my job to do the best I can, and keep talking to them about safety and doing more research before they see something and decide to deem it as truth.
Even if they aren’t speaking up to you about the things they see, ask them.
Even if they aren’t saying they believe in conspiracy theories they see on TikTok, ask them.
Even if you haven’t seen them partake in a challenge, ask them.
I’ve always felt my kids had good heads on their shoulders. They’ve watched their parents do their research and not believe everything they’ve heard online or on television, and I’d like to think they’d do the same, because that’s how they were raised. But the allure of TikTok is too strong.
This is our reality as parents who have kids engrossed in social media, and as much as we all wish it were different, it’s not.
Even if you feel like you’re burning brain cells as you try to explain to them that not everything they hear or see on TikTok is true, do it. Because kids are doing dangerous things, and forming dangerous opinions, based on the “authority” of their peers.
I wish TikTok was just the seemingly harmless dancing video app I thought it was in the beginning. Silly me.