Teens across the globe capture themselves on camera


Andrew Truong, Staff Writer

Most agree that the rise to fame can be achieved in the following ways: talent, starring on reality television, posting an outrageous video or scandalous photos, or simply being humorous. Recently, however, there has been a new and even easier way to gain attention.

The answer to the search for fame is TikTok, a social media app that allows users to record in-app videos for up to 15 seconds. First opening the app, the “For you” page comes up, which is the feed. The next tab has the option to search users, hashtags, and songs. Then a “create a video” section, notifications, and finally the user’s profile. TikTok is most known for housing cringe-worthy videos of teenagers lip-syncing to trendy songs. There may, however, be an unsafe aspect to kids posting music videos. Some viral stars put themselves at risk by posting themselves wearing revealing clothing – keep in mind they are around twelve to sixteen years-old. This confirmed my interest to dive deeper into the realm of TikTok and its features. I had to find out: Is TikTok simply an app to entertain, or is it a place where sexual predators can stalk children?

TikTok, formerly known as Musical.ly, rebranded itself by merging Musical.ly and TikTok into one app. The reason for this is that TikTok had 400 million monthly active users mostly based in China, and Musical.ly had only 100 million monthly active users. Shanghai’s social platform company decided it was best to combine the apps placing 500 million users into the one platform. Adding 400 million people to a platform broadens the user’s audience and increases their level of engagement. This opens the door for creators across the world, especially American influencers. Popular teenagers on the app, such as Jacob Sartorius, Loren Gray, and BabyAriel gain massive numbers of followers through the “For you” page. This section of the app puts popular TikTok creators on a “popular videos” page where all users can easily view them. The three most followed accounts on TikTok are Lisa and Lena with 31.9 million fans, Loren Gray with 29.6 million, and BabyAriel with 29.1 million followers. With such a large audience, video creators are given a responsibility that they might not have asked for. Now, it’s up to influencers, such as Gray and Sartorius, to find a way to entertain their audience while being age appropriate. This has led to them receiving a lot of criticism for not acting their age or dressing inappropriately. While I do understand teenagers need to do certain things to stay relevant, the hope is that they make decisions that will keep them away from sexual predators. Wearing less clothing not only attracts the attention of other teenagers, but possibly older people as well who have less than innocent intentions.

When I opened the app, I noticed a huge age gap between users. They were either teenagers or, surprisingly, elderly men and women filming videos. This shocked me, but when you consider the fact that kids will hip wind and twerk for views, I realized that adults can easily look at these inappropriate videos without getting in trouble. This makes the TikTok app an easy place for child predators to prey on kids who just want to have fun.

My advice to parents, as a teenager who knows what is happening on your child’s phone screen, is to monitor their use and make sure their posts don’t contain any age inappropriate content. The app allows users to chat with one another through messaging; this is a tool that the sketchy people can use. I don’t believe that there is a huge risk in allowing your child to use the app, nor have I heard of any cases of death by catfish, but I would warn any parents that this app can have your child doing dances you don’t want them to copy. Or songs you don’t want them to lip-sync to. Or skits you don’t want them to reenact. That being said, maybe ask them what they watch on the app, and that will clue you in on if you should be worried or not.

Aside from child endangerment, there is an aspect of fun that I was surprised by. The TikTok/Musical.ly app has always had a negative connotation for me. People who use the app are either, one, cringey teenagers looking for likes. Two, actual talented dancers. Or, three, lip-sync stars who dramatically dance to the worst songs. When I downloaded the app, I looked through the “For you” page hoping for something to surprise me. There I found a large range of videos. From comedy, stunts, fails, challenges, duets, and the classic music video, I was never bored. This doesn’t mean I was entertained, or enjoyed it at all, just that I was always on the edge of my seat. Then it hit me. Why not try making my own video?

From that idea I got the essentials. My best friend Abby, a fun song, and a class we could waste time in. We chose the song and that’s when we hit our first road block. Neither of us knew how to use the app and the only option on the screen was to hold and record. Thank God we had fellow percussionist Reed Smith in the room to hold it down for us, right? Together we choreographed, rehearsed, and filmed our first TikTok video to the song “Hard Times” by Paramore. I added the finishing touches by adding effects and there we had the complete project. It was a creative process and that’s when I understood why preteens enjoy the app so much. Two of the best things in life merge together on this social platform: music and narcissism. From there, I took a break and never looked at the app again. That is, until TikTok came up in a conversation between Kyle Woodward and me. One thing led to another and we ended up filming two videos together during band class. The first was a silly video where he put his phone in his mouth, and in the second, called the “Zoom Challenge”, I pull his legs out-of-frame. He seemed to know what he was doing, which was interesting. Is a one year age gap the difference between knowing how to navigate the TikTok app and not knowing what a duet is? I concluded that it was just me and I didn’t want to become familiar with it for fear that my ancestors would shame me for knowing how to use the app.

From cringey skits to amazing acrobatic tricks, I was never bored watching videos from the TikTok app. That is why it’s so popular. At first I thought, how could anyone be entertained by these mediocre dancers? But then I realized it’s not at all about the talent; it’s everything about the fun. When I took a chance and gave it a try, I had a lot of fun filming and refilming each video that I posted. And when it comes to the popular influencers, use the power you have on kids for good, and spread positivity and a good message, or just make your fans smile. Now, there’s only one thing left for me to do: delete the app. Bye-bye, TikTok!