The Impact of TikTok on Young People’s Mental Health

The Impact of TikTok on Young People’s Mental Health

This blog post has been written by Kieran Parsons, a student of Medicine at the University of Sheffield. Kieran did a medical student placement at Minds Ahead to help improve the research base which we use to impact on children and young people. 

What is TikTok?

TikTok, formerly known as, is a video-streaming platform consisting of short clips created and posted by over 100 million users. Content varies on the creator, which can range from humorous pranks to self-care videos to travel vlogs (videos created by users to share their travelling journeys and experiences). In October 2018, TikTok was the most downloaded photo and video app in the Apple Store globally. 

What sort of Research has been conducted around TikTok?

Considering its recent and exponential growth in popularity, little research has been done into the mental health implications for young people with regards to their usage of TikTok. Amongst mental health professionals, there is a limited understanding of TikTok and the potential mental health challenges it poses to our younger generations. Conversely, one study, conducted by McCashin and Murphy (2022), investigated the potential mental health benefits of TikTok with regards to content created by users educating about mental health.

The research revealed that there are many videos on TikTok educating about mental health, as well as videos based on branches of physical health related to other medical conditions. Researchers highlighted a variability in the quality of these videos, with the majority being categorised as either low or average quality. Therefore suggesting that although many of the videos on TikTok are aimed to improve mental health of others, the majority are not of high quality and should most likely be used in conjunction with other resources, or not used at all.

TikTok young people hands

Unfortunately, as mentioned previously, TikTok is a relatively new social media platform, and thus there is little credible research into the mental health impacts that it may have on young people in the future. Although, it’s possible to speculate the negative effects. Some experts believe that TikTok’s rise allowed people to stay connected during the pandemic; TikTok gives users the opportunity to learn new hobbies and interact with people based on their common interests, thus promoting the building of a community that shares enjoyment doing similar activities. However, some research has concluded that children with mental health stressors may see a temporary increase in emotional symptoms after social media use. Experts recommended monitoring the forthcoming research on social media use in order to equip themselves with adequate knowledge to educate young people and the people around them of the potential impacts of technology, in particular TikTok.

Wider Issues with Technology

It’s no secret that technology as a whole has boomed in recent decades, with roughly 95% of adolescents aged 13-18 currently having access to a mobile phone. This is pertinent as the teenage years represent a time in one’s life that is particularly at risk for the onset of mental illness therefore posing challenges to healthcare providers and policymakers as the virtual world of social media is becoming increasingly more complex and difficult to navigate. One challenge caused by the rise in technology and social media is cyberbullying. This is a term that has been introduced to our vocabularies in the past couple of decades, describing the act of bullying using technology, predominantly social media. This form of bullying is particularly difficult to solve as cyberbullies are able to remain anonymous, thus the perpetrator is not always obvious. Cyberbullying also poses challenges to teachers as it can be difficult to notice as they will not always be aware of their pupil’s social media usage.

Social Media Evolution

As a 20-year-old I can speak from my educational experiences throughout school that social media and the online world has changed drastically even for me. I remember being as young as 10-years-old learning about the challenges, and benefits, that Facebook poses. Over the years, new platforms, and new challenges, arose. The likes of Snapchat and Instagram further blurred the lines between one’s physical and virtual life, and no doubt complicated the lives of all. Most recently, it has been TikTok, which has completely revolutionised the use of social media. Now anyone can access millions of videos on almost any topic, with almost no restrictions. As stated already, little research has been done with regards to TikTok’s impact on the younger generations, but with its exponential growth, it’s clear to see that TikTok’s impact on the usage of social media will have a ripple effect across the virtual world.

Together, we can change young people’s mental health for the better!
At Minds Ahead, we work exclusively with schools and educational settings supporting staff to improve their mental health governance, strategy, leadership and policy for the benefit of the whole school community. We do this providing masters level qualifications in school mental health as well as working in partnership to strengthen mental health for all schools. 

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