Editorial: Timeout for TikTok

Posted 1/5/22

When will the U.S. government step in and shut down TikTok in this country?

We realize this is a very un-American suggestion — trampling on free speech and the free market — but it …

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Editorial: Timeout for TikTok


When will the U.S. government step in and shut down TikTok in this country?

We realize this is a very un-American suggestion — trampling on free speech and the free market — but it is also un-American to disrupt the entire U.S. educational system and threaten the health and wellness of a vast number of its citizens.

For those wondering what a TikTok is, ask any parent with a child between the ages of 10 and 17. The wildly popular social media platform, launched by a tech billionaire in China, is easily downloadable to any phone. Users record and share videos of up to 60 seconds each, though most simply watch the videos, their eyeballs and young minds consuming hours of content recorded by their “friends,” who are almost always strangers.

TikTok is a constant in millions of American households, and often it is the source of delightfully fun family moments, like when Dad tries to sequence a TikTok dance challenge with his 15-year-old daughter. But it occasionally lands in mainstream news broadcasts when one of its “challenges” goes off the rails.

The TikTok challenges are similar to what adults did in the early days of Facebook. Someone would post a cute photo of the “Elf on the Shelf” in their kitchen cupboard. Then the next person would stage the Elf flying through the kitchen. And then the next one would … and on and on it would go, everyone trying to be more creative than every person before them.

It’s become one of the insidious aspects of social media — everyone competing to go one step further than their “friends,” because once you’ve seen something outrageous, liked it, commented on it, shared it and talked about with others, it seems entirely unspectacular anymore. Time to come up with something more outrageous. Witness expectant parents accidentally killing themselves with their absurd “gender reveal” stunts.

That’s one of the core principles of the even more insidious TikTok challenges. Someone posts a video that pushes the envelope, whether of safety, legality, bravado, courage or decency. Everyone else is challenged to either copy it, or go one step further.

TikTok challenges have called upon young people to do death-defying stunts, attack their teachers, vandalize their schools and expose themselves to others.

As much of America learned last week, they have also encouraged threats of violence and shootings within schools. Their impact is catastrophic, with rampant absenteeism from scared students, anxious faculty trying to maintain normalcy in a stressful environment, enormous law enforcement resources directed to school safety for days, even weeks … They are literally disrupting American society.

So when is enough enough? We suggest TikTok needs a long timeout. Unless it can police and supervise its own content, and stop spawning dangerous behaviors in America’s youth, it needs to go away.

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Mike Rego has worked at East Bay Newspapers since 2001, helping the company launch The Westport Shorelines. He soon after became a Sports Editor, spending the next 10-plus years in that role before taking over as editor of The East Providence Post in February of 2012. To contact Mike about The Post or to submit information, suggest story ideas or photo opportunities, etc. in East Providence, email mrego@eastbaymediagroup.com.