The social media platform, TikTok, has stormed over the world, especially with the death of Vine in 2017. Vine’s death left a vacuum to be filled with short, attention-grabbing videos that would consume users’ time, especially those of the targeted demographic, teenagers.
TikTok is a video platform with videos ranging from a few seconds to 15 seconds max in one video to a total of 60 seconds if combining four different videos on the TikTok native app. Vine’s maximum amount of time per video was similar. Thus, TikTok naturally filled the void left in Vine’s wake.
Health officials are concerned, though, that a side effect has revealed itself in teenage girls in the form of verbal and physical tics reminiscent of Tourette’s syndrome. Most concerning is that the rare disorder typically presents in males (over 4x as likely) and normally between 5 and 7.
TikTok During the Pandemic
Teenage girls with tic-like behaviors flooded health facilities throughout the entire world throughout the pandemic. Doctors treating these girls all believed that they had isolated events until they spoke with their peers.
Normal presentation of Tourette’s syndrome is unique to each individual. However, when looking at the research and studies, Dr. Mohammed Aldosari, pediatric neurologist, noticed that the tics these teenage girls presented were all similar, across the entire world.
“When we noticed that we were all seeing similar presentations, that was the first alarm that this is not Tourette’s,” Dr. Aldosari said.
That only begged the question of what was causing this sudden increase in tic-like behavior in teenage girls?
TikTok Could be the Culprit
Before the pandemic, only about 1% of all tic disorders could be explained with sudden-onset tics. However, that percentage skyrocketed to over 35% during the pandemic, and mainly in teenage girls.
Dr. Aldosari explains, “These tics are a complex way for the brain to release overwhelming stress,” And further elaborates, “Essentially, their brains express an emotional stressor as a physical disorder.”
Because teenage girls are more likely to experience stress and anxiety, watching certain TikTok videos, especially of creators who have Tourette’s syndrome, the brain creates a neuropathway to release all the stress and anxiety the individual experiences.
With the pandemic stripping teenager girls away from actual social interaction, forcing them to interact with various online social media platforms that studies have shown to negatively impact mental health, stress and anxiety have a buffet of hormonal strife to blossom, forcing these poor girls into disorders otherwise unseen at their age.
Online Screen Time
Online screen time can be healthy, if conducted in a manner balanced with the rest of the user’s life. However, little sessions here and there can lead one to not even realize they are doomscrolling through their life.
Teenage girls fall victim to doomscrolling more often than almost any other demographic as they see post after post of an idyllic life presented before them that may not be theirs. These girls want that but feel they may not be good enough somehow, leading to even more stress and anxiety.
Kids’ phones and social media are part of their lives. Taking it away from them only increases the feeling of isolation.
Parents can help their children responsibly manage their online screen time to healthy amounts. It’s important to be aware of what your kids do online. But snooping can alienate them and damage the trust you’ve built together. The key is to stay involved in a way that makes your kids understand that you respect their privacy but want to make sure they’re safe.
Learning to use your own judgment is a big part of growing up, it’s important for parents to realize that regulating their own phone behavior is something kids need to learn, too, sometimes by trial and error.
Setting a good example through your own virtual behavior can go a long way toward helping your kids use social media safely.