Recently, Governor Mike Dewine signed an executive order banning the use of any Chinese owned social media apps on state-owned devices. This includes the popular, often viral social media app, TikTok.
Because 63% of Americans ages 12-17 use TikTok on a weekly basis, parents of these children may be wondering what this means for them. The short answer is, not much. State employees are prohibited from using TikTok on state-owned devices, which means K-12 public school educators and state college faculty and staff will be blocked from using the app in classroom computers. However, the vast majority of users access TikTok on their personal cell phones, which are not included in the ban.
This still leaves questions about the safety of the app for young users. Below is the breakdown of important information for parents to consider:
Reason for the Ohio Ban
Ohio, along with several other states, have cited concerns that TikTok and other Chinese apps could be used to gather user data and information to share with the Chinese government. They cite a Chinese intelligence law that requires companies to assist in intelligence gathering such as sharing user data with the government.
States are not the only entities sharing these concerns. A growing number of companies and schools are considering or already implementing bans of the popular app. They are facing increased pressure from critics of the app.
While proponents of these bans cite national security and privacy concerns, critics believe these bans are more about politics than concrete security concerns. Georgetown University law professor Anupam Chander reasons, “”There’s no evidence of this. None of the claims here, even the insider claims that some employees make about access by people in China, that access isn’t by the Chinese government, but rather others within the Byte Dance corporate structure, to [look at] data about TikTok employees and others in the United States.”
Educators like Elizabeth Modarelli, Associate Professor at Stark State College worry that, “Attempts to keep kids from using certain types of technology rarely work. They’re all using TikTok already, so the more responsible approach educators and parents should take is to help kids learn to navigate the platform safely. Just like any other tool, learning how to use it safely to achieve your desired goal is key.”
Other Reasons for Concern
While national security may not be a reason to delete a child’s TikTok app, experts do believe that parents should pay attention to their children’s TikTok and other social media usage.
A recent Axios report details a growing concern among mental health experts about a connection between heavy social media use and mental health issues in children. Scientists have found a substantial link between depression and the time a child spends on social media. This risk is substantially higher in teen girls.
In young boys, studies have shown that social media has contributed to a rise in teen terrorism and extremist violence. Misogynistic and white supremacist content often slip through the enforcement gaps and reach the young boys they are targeting.
After weighing the national security and mental health concerns connected to TikTok, parents may want some advice on how to proceed. This app has become a staple of many children’s social experience and can have some positive and fun applications.
TikTok has created a Guardians’ Guide to help parents navigate the social media site and create a safe space for their kids. Parents may also want to consult the Common Sense Media Parents’ Ultimate Guide to TikTok, which includes some helpful insight and tips. Ultimately, parents need to consider the facts and weigh the risks and benefits to determine the best approach for their families.