Bloomberg: Kids on TikTok Find the Sunny App Has a Dark Side

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Originally Published at Bloomberg

By Shelly Banjo and Shawn Wen


TikTok is known primarily as a launchpadfor funny memes, dance routines and lip-synching videos. The company embraces that reputation with a tagline, “the last sunny corner on the internet.” But there’s a dark side to TikTok that engulfs some of the app’s youngest users.

Beneath the surface, TikTok also hosts videos promoting anorexia, bullying, suicide and sexual exploitation of minors. Highly personalized recommendations, driven by algorithms owned by the parent company ByteDance Ltd., often make it harder for parents to track what their children are seeing and for regulators to monitor what kids are being exposed to on the app.

Safety advocates said TikTok for years prized expansion over the protection of minors. “Their company exploded in growth across the world, and they just didn’t prioritize child safety as they were growing,” said Dawn Hawkins, who runs an advocacy group called the National Center on Sexual Exploitation.

Hawkins said she spent months helping an 8-year-old relative get inappropriate videos of him in his underwear taken down from TikTok. Hawkins acknowledged that TikTok recently made a number of sought-after improvements but said it’s still not a safe place for very young children to roam unmonitored.

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The Numbers

300+

NCOSE leads the Coalition to End Sexual Exploitation with over 300 member organizations.

100+

The National Center on Sexual Exploitation has had over 100 policy victories since 2010. Each victory promotes human dignity above exploitation.

93

NCOSE’s activism campaigns and victories have made headlines around the globe. Averaging 93 mentions per week by media outlets and shows such as Today, CNN, The New York Times, BBC News, USA Today, Fox News and more.

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