TikTok lacks protection for its young users

With over 500 million users, TikTok has become the most popular social media app among young teens. This social media platform is famous for its one-minute videos of amateur  lip-syncing and attempts at performing trending dance moves.

Because of the user demographic, a large portion of the content, especially the ones featured on the recommended page called the “For You” page (FYP), is sexual. 

Although teenage girls owning their sexuality is valid, once they upload their content onto any social media platform, they become vulnerable to sexual exploitation, especially from older men. TikTok has also been promoting an unhealthy trend of young girls exploiting themselves for more views and likes. 

On a platform where provocative dances are what will get you onto the algorithm, many underaged girls are hopping on the bandwagon by uploading their own dances, hoping for a taste of fame. A popular example of the sexualization of a minor leading to fame is 15-year-old Charli D’Amelio, one of the biggest TikTok stars with an ever growing fanbase of 17.7 million followers. 

After her suggestive dancing made it onto the FYP, her account blew up, and the sudden influx of popularity gave her multiple amazing opportunities, such as a chance to perform at the Jonas Brothers’ concert and a contract with the United Talent Agency. 

Yet, D’Amelio’s rise to fame through TikTok falls into a controversial category since it indirectly, yet unhealthily, encourages other young girls to follow in her footsteps, causing them to spend hours at a time learning provocative dances and uploading videos online. 

This is an extremely serious issue when online child predators become involved. The app has a history of adult men preying on these minors through dueting, a feature on the platform which allows users to make corresponding videos without the other content creator’s consent. 

This problem was brought to light in 2017, when an internet predator, 26-year-old Buddy Haynes, with the online username of The Budday, was banned from TikTok for harassing underaged girls. He uploaded collaborations with these minors and was even messaging them in private. The private screenshots were exposed by the girls themselves.

Alleged screenshots include him asking underage girls for their ages and admitting that he had a crush on them and wanted a long lasting relationship. The situation only worsened when a few girls exposed him for sending explicit photographs to them through Snapchat and asking for the girls to return the favor. Screenshots of explicit conversations with these young girls were also uploaded online, which ultimately causedTik Tok to ban the child predator from their platform. 

This one case illustrates the dangers of rampant sexual exploitation of minors on social media. There are not enough content regulators or protections in place to safeguard these young users, and the trending provocative dances and lip-sync performances only increase the risk for teenagers online. Children in today’s society are also not being well educated enough on how vulnerable they are to predators on the internet. 

TikTok and other similar social media platforms must take initiatives, which could include enforcing stricter restrictions against the access to any account’s private messages, to change its apps in order to protect these children who are easily taken advantage of.