TikTok takes on mental health with new features
TikTok is rolling out a new set of features designed to support users struggling with mental health issues and suicidal thoughts.
The video-sharing app announced yesterday that its new “well-being” guide will serve to educate its users about the negative mental health impacts of social media. Developed in collaboration with the International Association for Suicide Prevention, Crisis Text Line, Live For Tomorrow, Samaritans of Singapore and Samaritans (UK), the new well-being guide will include helpful resources for individuals struggling with their mental health.
The social media giant also worked with the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA), to develop a brief under the “topics” section of the Safety Center. NEDA is no stranger to social media partnerships, recently teaming up with Pinterest to ban ads promoting weight loss. TikTok has already begun to redirect potentially distressed users to local support such as a Crisis Text Line when they search for potentially triggering terms such as #suicide.
In the upcoming months, the platform plans to share content from creators discussing their own battles with mental health with the intent of helping someone in need. Additionally, the viral video-sharing app plans to add opt-out features and labels to sensitive content giving users the ability to decide whether to view the content before it’s shown.
The announcement arrived after a report leaked in The Wall Street Journal exposing Instagram as being harmful to the mental health of its teenage users in specific situations. One anecdote revealed that as a result of researching for workout tips a 19-year-old’s explore page became filled with weight loss content. Following the Journal’s report, U.S. lawmakers heavily criticized Facebook for social media’s impact on teen mental health and the company’s failure to address the problems. Although Instagram acknowledged the existence of the research as reported by The Wall Street Journal, the company said that the story “focuses on a limited set of findings and casts them in a negative light”.
“The question on many people’s minds is if social media is good or bad for people. The research on this is mixed; it can be both,” Instagram wrote in a blog post today.
Over the last few years, TikTok has faced its fair share of controversies. Most recently the app was temporarily banned in Italy following the death of a young girl participating in an in-app challenge. The company has also been continuously criticized for its exploitation of young girls, potentially increasing predatory behaviour with its highly attuned algorithms dipping into personal preferences.
As the platform continues to gain major traction among younger audiences it has an obligation to protect its more impressionable users where it can, by shielding them from harm and providing support.
Responding to the announcement TikTok said: “We care deeply about our community, and we always look for new ways in which we can nurture their well-being.
“That’s why we’re taking additional steps to make it easier for people to find resources when they need them on TikTok.”
Although issues of mental health and social media cannot be addressed in their entirety, TikTok’s new announcement signals a move in the right direction as the platform continues to add new tools on this front.
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