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 is …

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Editorial: Timeout for TikTok

Posted

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.

2022 by East Bay Newspapers

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Scott Pickering

Scott Pickering has been on the East Bay Media Group team for more than two decades, since starting as a reporter for the Sakonnet Times. He's been editor of most of the papers, was Managing Editor of all the papers for many years, and became General Manager in 2012. Today he can be found posting to EastBayRI.com, steering news coverage, writing editorials, talking to readers, working with the sales team, collaborating on design, or helping do whatever it takes to get the papers out the door. Reach him at spickering@eastbaymediagroup.com.