What’s TikTok? – Culture Check-Up

Programme materials

It's very likely you’ve heard the word ‘TikTok’ thrown around in your GB groups over the past couple of years. You may have even noticed your girls doing little choreographed dance routines or lip syncing to the latest chart bop.

This is because the video-sharing app has well and truly taken prime position as the hottest social media platform for young people all over the world. With Facebook becoming an ancient fossil and Snapchat declared ‘so sad’ by social media queen Kylie Jenner, TikTok has gone viral in the lives of Generation Z members.

So, what actually is TikTok? According to their website, TikTok is ‘the leading destination for short-form mobile video’ with a mission ‘to inspire creativity and bring joy.’ How this looks in reality is users create and share short video clips set to music or sound bites. The videos are often funny and humorous, or focus on a talent such as dancing or singing. Unlike other forms of social media, the purpose of the app is not necessarily to connect with friends but instead to engage with a global community of users posting their videos to entertain and impress their audience of peers. Users often follow internal TikTok trends when creating their videos, such as hashtag challenges or the latest choreography.

TikTok has become something of a hub of positivity as users applaud each other’s creativity or post videos celebrating their own beauty or talent. A popular trend in videos sees users describing themselves as ‘Drop. Dead. Gorgeous’ as they emerge from behind sunglasses, silly hats, baggy clothes and makeup to flaunt their natural beauty. In an age where young people demonstrate so much insecurity around their physical appearance it’s surely great to see a whole community celebrating their body image. Another trend involves users describing how amazing their mum is while dragging her into frame to show others how wonderful she is. From dancing dads to cute puppy videos, TikTok certainly has a lot of wholesome content.

Global organisations also use the platform, be that for advertising or disseminating information. In the recent weeks, TikTok has even hosted videos created by Unicef and the World Health Organisation instructing viewers on how to stop the spread of COVID-19.

But, as on all forms of social media, there’s always room for the fun to go awry. A recently trending challenge called the Skull-breaker Challenge sees a person jump into the air to have their legs kicked out from under them by two others, usually resulting in the person falling flat on their back. One mother posted a warning to other parents after her daughter was injured in the challenge: ‘Please please if you have teenagers doing TICTOCS [sic] DO NOT GET THEM INVOLVED IN THIS. I’m sitting in A&E with my daughter with a severe spinal injury’. In the US, participation in this challenge has led to two young people being charged with aggravated assault after another was seriously injured.

At Girls’ Brigade, we obviously want to keep our young people and their friends as safe as possible. By staying informed on these various new trends, we can make sure we’re responding to the real situations in which our girls find themselves. Keep open conversations running with your young people about what online trends they’re taking part in, making sure they’re using their social media accounts safely and responsibly. Encourage girls to update their privacy settings so they know who is seeing their videos and remind them of the uncertainty involved in interacting with online personas they’ve not met in real life. It’s always good to brush up on your e-safety tips when working with young people!

It’s important to remember that most of our young people are going to be on social media, using it to connect with friends and express themselves. Therefore, don’t try to deter girls from using apps like TikTok but remember to check in to make sure they’re happy in their online presence. You could even set up social media accounts for your GB groups to set an example of what a positive online presence looks like. A TikTok account for your group could be a great way to have fun with your girls by taking part in trending challenges, learning dances, or posting about what your group has been up to. If our young people want to be online, we should take our positive, hope-filled content there too.

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