What Parents Need to Know about Tik Tok and Mental Health

What Parents Need to Know about Tik Tok and Mental Health

With the impending possibility of a ban or its forced sale to a U.S. company, TikTok has been getting more attention from mainstream media. On April 19, 2024, The New York Times published a piece titled “TikTok Changed America'' in which it reflected on the app’s impact on everything from Hollywood and cooking to news, schools, and mental health perceptions.

A piece in Education Week delved deeply into what schools should know when “Kids Turn to TikTok for Mental Health Diagnoses.” It underscores the bewilderment faced by educators as students profess newfound mental health conditions without clinical validation. The allure of adopting labels such as ADHD, dissociative identity disorder, or Tourette's syndrome, fueled by TikTok's algorithmic echo chambers, has profound implications. It can not only disrupt classroom dynamics but also perpetuates misinformation, hindering individuals from seeking proper professional help. 

An EdWeek Research Center survey found 65% of school leaders and teachers reported that their students “sometimes” or “frequently” use social media to diagnose their own mental health conditions. 

At Merion Mercy Academy, school counselor Maria Carini said: 

“There can be both pros and cons to social media use. A positive is that it allows teens to connect with their peers around things that are important to them. However, as the article states, this should not be the only source of information. The facts they find on social media may not always be accurate. That is why it is important to encourage teens to talk with a trusted adult especially about mental health concerns. When necessary, seeking out therapy for support and an accurate diagnosis is very important.

Empowering students to become discerning consumers of digital content emerges as a crucial imperative. Encouraging critical thinking and fact-checking can serve as antidotes to the spread of misinformation. By scrutinizing the credibility of sources and discerning between entertainment and educational content, students can navigate the digital landscape more responsibly.

On a positive note, there are glimmers of hope. Social media platforms like TikTok have facilitated conversations around mental health, dismantling the stigma that once shrouded these discussions. In fact, one social media trend of the moment invites posting five things you struggle with that are related to mental health. By openly sharing personal struggles related to mental health we see a cultural shift towards destigmatization and empathy.

As we navigate this digital frontier, it's essential to strike a balance between leveraging the benefits of social media while safeguarding against its potential harms. By fostering digital literacy and promoting open dialogues about mental health, we can harness the transformative potential of social media while mitigating its adverse effects.