Grim yet shocking headlines such as the death of two girls aged eight and nine associated with a social media (TikTok) challenge have been brought up in recent news articles. While these two girls may not be the first or last to succumb to these TikTok challenges, it has raised questions about who we need to blame for this problem. Should we blame the algorithms for pushing this content to children? Should we blame the people who created this content? Or should we blame the parents? Who audits TikTok’s algorithms? Who monitors how our children use technology? Is it perhaps time for us to start auditing these algorithms and demand accountability from those who control what our children see online? Do we need to take back control of these platforms so we don’t continue seeing stories like this?
Bringing a new life into this world is always met with excitement. Yet every single one of these happy moments comes at a cost. I know many parents who go to great lengths to survey their home before bringing a baby into it to see what dangers could be present for children—natural or otherwise. Some buy pool covers to keep them safe from accidental drowning; mount cabinet locks high enough that they can’t easily reach them; install window locks where they won’t slip through if left open unattended (quite unlike my old habit). I’m sure you’ve done similar things too! It seems modern technology has posed yet another danger to our children. How do we protect children from the dangers that lurk behind every click?
A social media account that causes problems
I first learned about the Blackout Challenge two days ago, but after researching I found evidence dating back years ago. Many children have died or have been hospitalized because of these blackout challenges! But when will we say enough is enough? How many more deaths will there need to be before action is taken, before these platforms start taking responsibility for their actions? Is society at fault for not holding these social media platforms accountable in a way that would put an end to the deaths of so many young children?
I know TikTok, in the past, has denied any responsibility for such deaths. I wonder if they will take responsibility now. How can TikTok algorithms continue to send such dangerous content to children? Are they simply missing this, or is it intentional recklessness on the part of TikTok? So why don’t they just find a way to monitor harmful content or at least have a filter to block it out entirely? These sites are already thriving off of these heinous posts, which is revolting! Yet, some controversial posts would get removed in a flash if somebody commented, “This isn’t nice!” What logic.
I think that a lot of the problems that we have seen with social media can be blamed on the fact that there is no accountability. Anyone can create an account and say whatever they want without any repercussions. This lack of accountability has led to the proliferation of such harmful content.
The problem is who controls what people see.
As a parent, I find it very frightening how social media can lead my child astray. So, each time we allow our children to use social media, they are practically one click away from risking their lives. It scares me even more because these big corporations do nothing but reward content that goes viral. After all, these sites make billions from advertising dollars every year, so they have a vested interest in making sure people see content.
It’s becoming increasingly clear that we can’t trust social media platforms to police themselves. That’s why it’s more important than ever for parents to be aware of what their children are doing online. The responsibility falls on us as parents to know how our kids use social media and to monitor them if necessary. As a parent, it is important to be aware of the apps your children are using and what type of content is being consumed. With TikTok being one of the most popular apps among kids, it is important to monitor their activity on the app. It is also important to talk to your kids about online safety and responsible social media use. Parents should do their research and make sure they have parental controls enabled if they want to restrict the types of videos that their children see.
Should we perhaps ban TikTok?
I don’t think that banning TikTok is the answer. We need to figure out how to make it safer for children to use. I also think that some sort of parental filter needs to be put in place so kids won’t get sucked into these dangerous games. I believe we need to continue monitoring how our children use technology because, even though TikTok has disabled the blackout challenge, there will always be new ways for kids to get themselves into trouble.
What are your thoughts?
Who is to blame? Should an 8-year-old child be on TikTok? What should parents do about TikTok? If there was a way to monitor your children while they’re using TikTok or other social media sites, would you do it?
I am a writer, social impact entrepreneur and I advocate for AI Ethics, diversity and Inclusion as well as equal access to AI technologies. I am the current COO of Adashe and Also COO and co-founder of AI ethics world.
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