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Story and graphic by Kayla Benefield

The Tick Behind The Tok – TikTok’s Sexual Content Impacts Teens

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Think about the last viral trend you participated in. How did you hear about it? TikTok? I thought so. According to CNN, “TikTok now has 150 million monthly active users in the United States,” as confirmed by CEO Shou Chew, hooking anyone who scrolls past a couple of videos. It draws you in with an algorithm meant to cater to your preferences, resulting in obsessive behavior. From one video to the next, the app sucks up all your time.

TikTok has had numerous negative effects on the teenage population, one of which includes body distortion and a push for kids to act older than they are. The study titled “TikTok Use and Body Dissatisfaction: Examining direct, indirect, and moderated relations” found that “TikTok is detrimental to body image, as its usage is positively associated with body dissatisfaction.” Many girls feel the pressure to weigh less than 100 pounds and have an hourglass figure to be considered not only pretty but gorgeous.

Charlene Afedi, a Mill Creek High School student, said she has noticed a shift in the air when it comes to weight. “People compare themselves to influencers, who often have filters or undergo surgery that changes their bodies, often promoting unrealistic standards,” she says.

Teens have also started to turn to sexual validation due to the “sneaky link” culture people have created on TikTok. Many feel pressured to experience romantic or sexual relationships prematurely, believing it’s a marker of maturity or popularity within their peer group. According to the Wall Street Journal, “An analysis of the videos served to these accounts found that through its powerful algorithms, TikTok can quickly drive minors—among the biggest users of the app—into endless spools of content about sex and drugs.” The app pushes out videos that feature the topic of sleeping around or sneaking out, especially when the creator is a teenager. The fear of missing out deeply influences all the users of the app, pushing them to conform to someone they’re not. 

Nhyira Ageyman Kan-kam, a senior at Mill Creek High School, says Tik Tok has definitely changed the game. “When I was younger, kids would talk about games and shows,” she says. “But nowadays, kids talk about makeup, Twitter, and TikTok. I feel like the new generations have lost their innocence.”

However, Jackie Maraguas, a senior at Seckinger High School in Gwinnett County, says TikTok has helped her become more “socially conscious,” adding that “TikTok, all in all, is just a fun app!” As a former user, there are some positive sides to the app. TikTok can be informative when it comes to recipes, style inspiration, or even comedic relief.

TikTok has gathered significant popularity and influence. The app can morph your opinions and change you as a person. I’ve seen people switch their political party and even change their views on abortion. For wide is the gate, and broad is the way that leads to destruction. Of course, it’s up to you whether you deem the app to have more of a positive or negative influence, but when it’s your mental health on the line, is anything really worth that risk?

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