Most teenagers’ lives somewhat revolve around social media. One platform in particular is TikTok, an app where users can upload short videos for the purpose of comedy, fame, entertainment and more.
When society learns to live with something, it is a bit of a shock when this thing could possibly pose a threat. This is exactly what happened when all public universities across the state of Florida made the decision to ban TikTok on their campuses due to privacy concerns.
TikTok has over 150 million American users, but the app is actually owned by the Beijing based technology firm, ByteDance. The United States is currently investigating privacy concerns regarding TikTok, and working out whether or not to ban the app because of suspicions of the intentions of its parent company.
“I think the fear of it being an app controlled by another country with all its third-party spyware type tracking software is what scares people,” history teacher Justin Vantassel said. “I think it’s dangerous. I think it’s a slippery slope if you open that door of banning things and what is next.”
Back in February, the White House gave U.S. federal agencies 30 days to delete the TikTok app off of any government-issued devices. The fear that sparked this impending ban was in regards to the privacy of TikTok users. The suspicion is that ByteDance, the company that owns TikTok, is able to steal the app’s users’ private data, such as search history and location.
“I feel like it’s not necessarily the government’s responsibility if it doesn’t pose an immediate threat,” sophomore Olivia Collins said. “But, if they have reason for concern, if there is an overwhelming amount of evidence which proves that TikTok is in fact taking our data, then yeah, I think it should be banned.”
In regards to Florida specifically, public universities all throughout the state have begun to ban the use of TikTok on school Wi-Fi, as well as school-issued devices, because of the same security concerns.
“I spend like eight hours a day on TikTok so [banning TikTok] really could be a good thing,” sophomore Niva Ryster said. “It would be hard to cope with at the same time, because it’s something that’s important to me, even though it might be dumb that social media is important to people, it just is, because it has become such a big part of everyday life.”
Many teenagers have grown to rely on TikTok for entertainment, and even as a means to keep up with current events. In a survey conducted by Pew Research Center in 2022, it was found that 16% of teenagers use TikTok constantly. A potential ban, given how popular TikTok is, caused a lot of backlash regarding the social media platform.
“I don’t really use it as much as I used to a couple years ago, but I think it would definitely intercept the way that I connect with people online as an incoming college student,” senior Paloma Rambana said. “I think that TikTok has definitely become a social media where we can find people to connect with through their content. So, that being a limited resource, I think I would probably just shift into using Instagram more, or coming into different social media apps instead. But, I think that it could be both positive and negative, because it has me reflecting on my use of social media.”
Because of how much of the entertainment world resides on TikTok, another concern users have is the simple question of what they will use for entertainment if TikTok does become restricted? Though the fear is less, it is still something many teenagers have had to face since the threat of the TikTok ban.
“I have a lot of screen time on TikTok, so I would just watch TikTok less,” freshman Anna Chuku said. “I’d probably just use YouTube or Instagram reels and watch similar things.”
None of the privacy concerns regarding TikTok and its owner have been proven true. However, since the concerns were raised, many are still questioning if this popular social media platform is safe to use or not. The simple answer at the moment is, there isn’t one.
“I think that anything that requires an internet footprint and has us putting ourselves online can be viewed as dangerous,” Rambana said. “It just depends on the perspective you bring to the situation.”