Science & Technology

Sex, narcotics, TikTok: Keeping young people safe requires a mature response, not a moral panic

You may have Read recently TikTok is said to “provide” sex and drug videos to minors. The media report describes the video sharing platform. Designed primarily for young peopleAs an “addicting machine” that promotes harmful content.

In the study, a Wall Street Journal reporter created 31 bot accounts on TikTok, each programmed to interact only with a particular subject of content. Many of the bots are registered as 13 to 15 years old, including bots programmed with an interest in “drugs and drug use”, eventually showing 569 videos related to drugs. rice field.

In this study, we sought to better understand how the app’s algorithms select videos for users. The behavior of these types of algorithms is an industry secret, but much has been done about the obvious features of apps that “know” what users want to see and whether content creators can. Gaming the system Get more views.

This article concludes that TikTok’s algorithm actively “provides” drug content to minors. But is this a reasonable conclusion? If so, do parents need to worry about TikTok’s drug content?

The Wall Street Journal article does not provide enough details to assess the rigor of the method and the validity of the conclusions. However, there are reasons to suspect that the methodology is inherently flawed.

One problem is that bots designed to manipulate only content related to a particular set of interests are not a very realistic model for the average social media user. Real humans do not have a set list of interests that they never get lost in – they have a diverse range of interests and curiosity.

Moral panic

Anxiety and moral panic over technology that is popular with young people is nothing new. Fear of the harmful effects of social media My space And even the early 1990s platforms.

In turn, these fears of harm to children help fuel greater demands. Surveillance and censorship..Some countries like India, Pakistan When United States of America We have temporarily banned TikTok or considered doing so. Parents are encouraged to stop their children from using it, and the app is encouraged to completely censor the content of the drug.

TikTok offers the best recipes for techno panic. There is growing concern that the mysterious behavior of the algorithm and the non-prompt nature of users being served videos in their “For You” feeds will drive the distribution of inappropriate content. Sexual care or eating disorders..This is the platform Explicitly designed To attract a young user base.

read more:
Most adults have never heard of TikTok.It’s by design

Young people are “digital natives” and, despite being very proficient in using technology, lack impulse control and are often considered to be vulnerable to danger. However, their voices are mostly excluded from these conversations. Despite their expertise in navigating these platforms, young people are spoken, not spoken.

Instead of assuming that young people are inherently lacking in judgment, taking their experience and expertise seriously allows us to discover new ways of looking at old problems. One of the authors of this article (Isabelle Volpe) is investigating this in her ongoing PhD study.

Drug content on social media

Another issue with these moral concerns frameworks is that not all drug-related content on TikTok necessarily allows drug use. TikTok provides forums for content creators of all kinds. Some are openly using the drug, while others are talking about the use of the drug and its potential harms and risks.

While traditional Media coverage When Drug education Usually focused on crime, addiction and suffering, but these framings often do not resonate with young people and can lead to the intended message. Not taken seriously.. In comparison, social media platforms offer a broader perspective on substance use.

Some content creators talk about recovery from addiction ( Health expert Explain their work and give people Direct account), Although some people give the desired advice Reduce potential harm For those taking medicine.

It’s also arguably true that some creators explain the fun of using recreational drugs. Drug use is complex and you need to draw a complex picture to evaluate the content of the drug on TikTok.

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Some TikTok content creators advocate substance use, while others offer constructive health advice.
Gras Grun / Unsplash, CC BY-SA

What should I do about drugs and TikTok?

It’s understandable that parents may consider TikTok a dangerous place. However, it’s important to remember that social media platforms can feature drug-related content.Parents and caregivers can help young people navigate these spaces Open and honest conversation about drugsTherefore, young people can safely and confidently raise questions and concerns about what they see online.

TikTok also provides people who are using or are considering using the drug with the opportunity to provide evidence-based health information. These audiences are often considered “difficult to reach” because of the social stigma of looking for information about the drug.

read more:
TikTok can be good for your child if you follow some tips to stay safe

Algorithms that can identify people who may benefit from evidence-based information about drugs and provide them without explicit demand can be a powerful tool for public health.Health experts I’m already using TikTok As a new and attractive way to share public health messages, TikTok has already issued a “fact check” content warning Fight false alarms related to COVID..

A similar approach could be applied to drug-related content, perhaps directing users to reliable health information. There is no quick solution to the complex problem of misinformation. Different strategies need to be used to provide reliable information to those who need it.

Banning all drug content from TikTok may be the case if you throw your baby in the bath water by also removing content that focuses on health information and harm reduction. If you’re serious about protecting young people online, you need to be driven by evidence, not fear.


Isabel Volpe is funded by the National Center for New Drug Clinical Research. Her PhD research is funded by the Australian Government and UNSW Arts, Design & Architecture. She is affiliated with the nonprofits The Loop Australia and the Students for Sensible Drug Policy.

Clare Southerton does not work, consult, own shares, or receive funding for companies or organizations that benefit from this article, and discloses alliances related to non-academic appointments. Is not …

originally conversation..

Sex, narcotics, TikTok: Keeping young people safe requires a mature response, not a moral panic Sex, narcotics, TikTok: Keeping young people safe requires a mature response, not a moral panic

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