Friday, December 8 2023

In February, nearly 113 million App Store and Google Play users worldwide
downloaded TikTok, which is a 96% increase over the same period
last year. According to the latest estimates, the platform has recorded a
real boom, with a trend in progressive growth since the beginning of the
global emergency caused by the Covid-19, reaching a peak, in the various
states, just at the beginning of the lockdown.

In just over 4 years, the platform is about to reach 2 billion downloads,
and has millions of active users worldwide.

The Chinese company ByteDance launched TikTok in 2016. In 2017 the
company bought for about 750 million euros, the app that allowed
sharing short videos of karaoke and choreography. Then, in 2018, ByteDance
integrated the two platforms and kept the name TikTok. The app allows you
to upload and share short videos of 15, maximum 60 seconds, with your
favorite music in the background, to sing, to dub the characters and scenes
of the movies also using special effects, to capture the world around you,
and/or your body and your performances, often bizarre, funny, absurd, in
banal, everyday, simple or risky situations. In this period of emergency,
however, is also used a lot to convey all the information related to the
virus. And right from the beginning of the pandemic, in fact, it has also
been possible to detect a certain change of trend compared to regular
users. It has been defined as the app of the Z generation because it is
popular among young and very young people, especially children, but
recently it has also been widely used by universities, research centers,
which through the platform maintain contact with their respective audiences
and, at the same time, make their activities and projects public.

In recent weeks TikTok has started a real collaboration with the
World Health Organization and other bodies that are dealing with the
emergency in order to share contents related to Covid-19, activating a sort
of ‘institutional’ channel of information transmission. In the meantime,
the sharing of typical videos continues incessantly and they tell how the
world, especially the youth world, is experiencing the pandemic. The videos
range from the do-it-yourself hairdo, to how to wash your hands, put on
make-up, dress up, play, keep fit, in the time of coronavirus, mostly
through funny images, and with the inevitable background music.

It is as if the Chinese giant was drawing attention to the emergency and it
has declared to donate as much as 10 million euros, precisely to WHO. It
has also launched the hashtag #coronavirus, with the aim of countering the
phenomenon of the spread of fake news through the app. And while all over
the world there are many voices in favor of the initiative, there are still
those who look with perplexity “at the WHO decision to use TikTok
to ‘detoxify’ the information on the coronavirus. And this is especially
(telling) considering that so far the Organization has not been able to
contribute to stop the spread of the coronavirus from China to the rest of
the world and that it intends to continue praising China”, as reported by
the Thailand Medical News in early March 2020 (


Yet the platform, despite the controversy, perplexities -and dangers- is
growing day by day during quarantine, probably because in these strange
days especially young people and children feel the desire for recreation
and entertainment.

Young people like it a lot; influencers have to use it, a lot of
politicians have become converted tiktokers, so why is it so frightening,
and has it made talk so much about itself, in negative terms, especially a
few months ago, just before the pandemic broke out?

What are the dangers and risks of TikTok that still remain and
with respect to which a certain attention is necessary, even in the period
when the app seems to have mainly philanthropic scope, proposing itself as
a ‘health security collaborator’?

It seems paradoxical, but the greatest danger is in the field of security,
in particular, that of personal data and, in general, that relative to the
life of the people.

It is news of the first weeks of 2020 that the US Army banned the use of
the application on the soldiers’ devices made available by the government,
considering the platform a real cyber threat. Moreover, the platform often
carries dangerous messages and actions. Dangerous challenges, which lead to
imitate behaviors that seriously endanger people’s safety, have become
viral. A few months ago there was the Skullbreaker Challenge,
which, despite the risk of smashing one’s head, became very popular in the
social media for several weeks, all over the world. Then, along with the
Covid-19 virus, came the video of the absurd performance of licking
toilets, as it was a way to recover or prevent from infection, regardless
of the possible contagion. And then there is always the risk of pedophilia.
In fact, many of the videos propose images of young people exposing their
bodies, attracting the malicious ones.

In India the app was banned for two weeks, in April 2019, precisely because
of the pornographic content to which the young audience was exposed and
therefore because of the danger of child pornography and cyber bullying.
And yet, despite this, the Indian market remains one of the main markets
with 323 million downloads, in 2019, equal to 44% of the total.

It is a fact that this social is very popular among the very young people.
But is TikTok a social network suitable for children? Why are they
so fascinated by it?

Children are attracted by the desire for fun, entertainment; the risk,
together with the vision of inappropriate and inadequate content, is that
all this will turn into a race to the nth like, to increase the number of
followers, to gain popularity. And then, it is not excluded that there will
be the opposite effect instead and that we get to the disapproval, to real
insults, offences, threats, that hurt the person in his dignity. This is
the case of cyber bullying, a phenomenon which is also very widespread on
the platform and in any case difficult to control.

In reality, children are not able to grasp and fully understand all the
dangers connected to the visualization of their performance; or how much
the continuous vision of certain images, habits and behaviors, can
influence their habits and behaviors. Despite this, there are many children
who are spending their days watching TikTok.

is a challenge. ‘Beyond’ the competitions, the challenges that are very
popular on the platform, the challenge to which the spread of the app calls
us is, however, another. It’s a challenge that should engage especially
adults, and mostly parents, educators, to accompany children in the
creation and visualization of content offered by the social network. It’s
not easy, because children prefer to do it themselves, they can’t stand
intrusions and controls, and in situations of collective stress and
tension, it will be even more complicated. But the challenge is just this:
to make sure that it is not, and does not appear, as a control, or even as
a supervision, but actually as a sharing, a being together in ‘ TikTok mode’. Of course you can’t improvise it. Perhaps it is
naive to think that from one day to the next this rule can be applied and,
above all, accepted by young people. It may take a lot of patience and
determination. Making young people curious about the decoding of certain
messages, inherent in certain contents can be a first step. You can start
with the funny videos, the ‘apparently’ more banal ones, or the obviously
dangerous ones, to start discussing them together. And, also, to be the
‘director’ of videos made especially by children, in an attempt to build a
relationship of mutual trust and exchange of opinions on one of the many
realities of our world, of our life, so that it does not ‘invade’ the lives
of our children, but they can really control, in a conscious way, its use
and enjoyment.


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