In light of recent studies that have connected a link between social media usage and negative mental health, TikTok is implementing new resources to support the well-being of its users, a majority of whom are teenagers and young adults.
The resources include in-app guides that address topics such as signs of struggling, steps to create connections, and advice about eating and body image concerns, in order to better help users who are dealing with mental health issues.
TikTok has also strengthened its search engine interventions, too, to look for words or phrases such as “suicide.” Users will be met with information for local support resources that offer guidance or treatment opportunities. Users who choose to view search results will see supportive or educational content about suicide, rather than potentially dangerous TikToks.
“We’re proud that our platform has become a place where people can share their personal experiences with mental well-being, find community and support each other, and we take very seriously our responsibility to keep TikTok a safe space for these important conversations,” said Tara Wadhwa, TikTok’s US director of policy.
TikTok’s announcement comes as more research has emerged about the harmful impact social media can have on young people. The connection between social media usage and mental health, particularly among teenagers, has been studied for years, with research showing that an increased use of social media often results in negative self-image and self-harm. And while social media at times can easily spread a harmful narrative, is can also be a great resource to get help.
“I’ve seen some of these videos, some by other children and others posted by professionals, and many of them are accurate, informative and quite helpful,” said John Duffy, who works with teens, parents, couples and families and wrote Parenting the New Teen in the Age of Anxiety said to CNN. “I’m glad that there is some good mental health-related information available to our young people on a platform that draws them in.”
“That said, these changes are not nearly enough,” Duffy added. “It is crucial that TikTok makes it clear that their platform is not a substitute for direct mental health care.”
While TikTok may be one of the first major companies to try to help users’ mental health, we certainly hope they’re not the last. Given the amount of research that has been conducted within the last decade alone, social media companies moving forward should have resources available to users. Yet while it’s admirable that big tech companies are attempting to steer the narrative in a new direction, it’s ultimately up to users to decide whether or not they will listen to the harmful messages. As more information and resources are readily made available, here’s hoping that the self-harm message spread online will eventually fade away.