If you haven’t seen the documentary TikTok, Boom on PBS, do yourself a favor and watch it ASAP.
The documentary begins with a story about the most popular social media app but ends with a discussion of the power the internet has.
Here are some key points that I took away from the documentary:
“Online influence is influence.”
Mentioned a few times is how one individual can make a big impact around the world through social media. However, believing influencers are just for teenagers and nothing serious would be a mistake. What we put out there and what we look at is shaping our minds which impacts the future.
But how? Well, on to the next big point:
“Data is the new oil”
Again, this is a quote that comes up a couple of times throughout the documentary.
Data is one of, if not the most important form of information we can get. How long we stay on a video, our location, our searches, and all of these tiny, forgettable things we do on social media make tech companies rich. And since TikTok is big with minors, that means children’s data is being documented and used.
Minors, much younger than the legal age to have social media (13 years old), are on these apps. As one interviewer points out, “the data collected on these apps allow the tech companies to know the child better than their parents.”
Not only that, but predators have easier access to children than ever before.
“They were child predators before social media, but they didn’t have direct access to your child’s inbox.”
So parents out there: get involved! It’s not easy, but you need to know what your kids are watching and who they go to for entertainment and information. TikTok is their newspaper, their 24-hour news channel, and their entertainment. You need to know what information they are receiving.
These apps are preying on children, which also means, these apps have a say in the future.
“The algorithms are reinforcing social disparities.”
One TikToker, Feroza Aziz, learned of the genocide against Muslims in China and tried to bring awareness, but she was banned from the app, which is owned and operated in China.
Other people who want to speak out against injustices, such as the Black Lives Movement, were also silenced off the app. How can this be? Well, TikTok’s algorithms continue to be a mystery, and they have zero transparency.
That policy, or lack of it, is why it was considered a national security threat.
Many of these apps, not just TikTok, “need” access to your phone’s microphone, location, and camera. But TikTok gets that data and keeps it in their bank, which ultimately is still owned by a Chinese company located inside China. Their government requires more data to be shared, hence why the US government banned the app from their employees’ phones.
So what is the solution?
Parental involvement is a must.
Taking intentional breaks and intentional time to use apps is a solution.
Overall, this one sentence explains it all:
“I think the solution…lies in the relationship between creator, consumer, tech companies, and government.”TikToker, Deja Foxx
The documentary shares other resources and movements that they believe can help:
Log Off: A movement dedicated to rethinking social media by youth for youth.
All Tech Is Human: a non-profit that unites a diverse range of stakeholders to expand the overall Responsible Tech ecosystem and co-create a better tech future.
Check out the documentary on PBS:
Here is the trailer:
*All images are from