TikTok is stepping up with a new mental health initiative designed to support (and protect) its youngest users.
This week, the fastest-growing social media app announced a plethora of new features intended to support the mental health of its millions of (mostly) teen and young adult users.
The new resources, according to a statement released to media, consist of in-app guides that tackle topics such as “signs of struggling” and advice about body image concerns, among others.
“We’re proud that our platform has become a place where people can share their personal experiences with mental well-being, find community and support each other, and we take very seriously our responsibility to keep TikTok a safe space for these important conversations,” TikTok’s US director of policy Tara Wadhwa said in the Sept. 14 press release.
In addition to the in-app guides, TikTok has tweaked its search engine interventions. Now, if you search words or phrases such as “suicide”, you’ll immediately be met with local support resources and treatment options. One thing you won’t be confronted with anymore? Potentially harmful TikToks that only exacerbate the situation. Instead, the emphasis will be on support.
TikTok’s announcement comes on the heels of a Wall Street Journal story that alleged Facebook publicly downplayed the negative effects Instagram had on the mental health of its teen users, despite the fact that Facebook’s own research suggested otherwise.
“While the [WSJ] story focuses on a limited set of findings and casts them in a negative light, we stand by this research,” Karina Newton, Instagram’s head of public policy, said in a statement. “It demonstrates our commitment to understanding complex and difficult issues young people may struggle with, and informs all the work we do to help those experiencing these issues. The question on many people’s minds is if social media is good or bad for people. The research on this is mixed; it can be both.”
As of February 2021, TikTok had more than 1.1 billion active users. In a study released last year, it was noted that kids and teens between the ages of four to 15 spend more than 80 minutes per day on the app, while more than 60 per cent of all active users are Gen Z.
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