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  • Meerelle Cruz

TikTok Conducts A Study About Harmful Trends and Challenges to Improve Safety Measures

TikTok has released a new study on the app's proliferation of dangerous issues and trends, with the goal of better understanding young people's interaction with them and developing better policies to safeguard them from harm.

This has become a major source of concern for the app over time. A 10-year-old girl died in Italy last year after participating in a 'blackout challenge' on the app, prompting Italian authorities to order TikTok to block the accounts of any users whose age it could not verify. Many people were seriously injured while attempting to climb stacks of plastic crates in the popular 'Milk Crate Challenge,' which trended earlier this year, and other alarming fads include the 'Benadryl challenge,' full facial wax, the 'back cracking challenge,' and more. There are some serious concerns here, and given the app's younger demographic and ever-expanding reach, TikTok must solve these issues as soon as possible to avoid any potential harm.

TikTok's harmful challenge study included responses from over 10,000 teens, parents, and instructors from a variety of countries, providing the platform with a broad understanding of the numerous factors at play. As a result, TikTok hired Praesidio Safeguarding, an independent safeguarding organization, to compile critical findings and recommendations to aid in the improvement of its operations.

As you can see from this graph, the vast majority of younger users do not believe they are taking part in dangerous activities. But, as highlighted above, this is self-reported, and there are certainly some serious safety concerns within these patterns, as evidenced by the above-mentioned tendencies. However, implementing such rules can be challenging, especially as these trends grow in popularity, and they aren't currently on TikTok's radar as a significant engagement emphasis. It's also tough to spot trends only based on hashtags. The TikTok moderation crew would probably pay attention to a 'Benadryl challenge,' but the 'Milk Crate Challenge' might not.

TikTok's analysis of the data has focused on self-harm hoaxes and related trends as a primary source of worry. Self-harm hoaxes typically entail convincing people to engage in a series of unpleasant activities that gradually develop and can lead to self-harm or even suicide. This more problematic portion includes trends like the 'Blue Whale Challenge' and 'Momo,' in which fictional characters act out a horror-like situation that might lead users down harmful behavioral paths.

As TikTok explains, such trends are so harmful that even warnings about them can create anxiety. The study found that self-harm warnings, even if given with the best of intentions, can have a negative influence on a teen's well-being. While they have already deleted and taken action to limit the propagation of hoaxes of this sort, they will begin to remove alarmist warnings about them to further protect the community, as they may cause harm by considering the self-harm hoax as true. Tiktok will continue to enable discussions that aim to calm people down and provide correct information.

In other words, TikTok will take harsher action against such hoaxes as a first step, beyond sending warnings, rather than admitting them with any kind of legitimacy by issuing app alerts. In addition, TikTok says it's collaborating with adolescent health experts to create additional tools for its Safety Center, which will be dedicated to problems and hoaxes. This contains guidance for caregivers, which we hope may alleviate their concerns about discussing this topic with young children.

TikTok is also changing the language in its warning labels, which appear when users try to find material related to dangerous challenges or hoaxes. As previously stated, this is a major source of concern, but it also presents a significant challenge, as there is no definitive way to detect potential harm in a rising trend until it is too late, and restricting such can have its negative consequences, particularly in terms of warnings and alerts, which may inadvertently help to promote the same.

Essentially, TikTok's strategy is to concentrate on the most dangerous types of issues, which it is attempting to better detect and address, while extra warnings and informational tools will assist parents and teens in avoiding risk. However, there will always be an element of danger, and policing it will be difficult. As a result, it's encouraging to see TikTok invest more resources in research to better understand the key factors at play, to improve detection and enforcement in the future.

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