At first it was really fun, scrolling around on your iPad endlessly watching dance videos. This is before you were old enough to have a smart phone, when your parents let you play around with a tablet. Harmless, right? Those were the good old days, back when Tik Tok was called Musical.ly. I remember because I was a parent of two of those kids, who back in 2014 had no idea what a Chinese tech company called ByteDance had unleashed on the world. I had an idea of course, being a parent it was part of my job to make sure whatever my children were doing on their screens was safe. But I also work in digital media, so I knew more than the average adult about data and privacy laws and algorithmically driven ad business. More time on devices meant more impressions, clicks, bots and money. It still does. And so what about the violation of data and privacy laws? Since when do adult Americans, parents of American kids care about personal data? We give it away every day in exchange for convenience. It carries so little value to us that we trade it away for a few minutes of laughs, so we can share it with our friends and get a few more laughs. Since when do grown, educated adults give a darn about the long term effect of a kids hooked on Musical.ly? They'll grow out of it, right? They'll get bored of it after a few minutes and go play with their friends, I am sure of it.
And now, 8 years later, you're 15 years old and you can't stop. We parents can shut down the WIFI and you just use cellular data. I can remove the app from your phone but you just reinstall in on the bus on the way to school the next morning. I can talk to you, bribe you into reading a book, but it doesn't stick. I can hope that in college you'll realize how much time you've wasted, but understand that now you want to be an influencer. I told you when dozen of states banned the app from government issued devices to try and scare you about the dangers of TikTok. But, how insulting is it, that the TikTok bans aren't about protecting children, but rather based on worry that maybe the Chinese government, with its ties to Byte Dance, are somehow accessing data on young Americans. The research is in, and now we have proof that the teenage brain, especially teenage girls, is negatively impacted by exposure to social media. Yes, it is troubling, but not as troubling as how we, as parents, have capitulated to TikTok. We tried and tried to get you to stop, but you wouldn't. You couldn't. Because, as we now know, the algorithm that controls the recommendation function in the app is as powerful and manipulative as an opiate. Like Oxycodone and Vicodin, highly engineered and weaponized for maximum addiction. You won't stop because you can't stop. And, where are the lawmakers and legislators who are supposed to be passing laws that protect you, our children? Great question, I wish I knew. What I do know now is that paid lobbyists have been funding their pet projects to help get re-elected and to keep restrictive legislation off the table. More impressions, more clicks, more money, more teenage suicides and depression. The worse thing is, I have failed, we have failed and Congress has failed. Some states attorney generals are finally taking notice and have launched an investigation into the dangers of Tik Tok, but is too little, too late. This means you and only you can save yourself from TikTok. Parents can't do it, Congress won't do it, so you have to do it. So, what are you waiting for?