Research published in the International Journal of Adolescent Medicine and Health suggests that TikTok has untapped educational potential. «The platform could play a vital role in the transmission of important health information, along with lip-sync videos and viral dance challenges,» said the authors of the study, led by researchers from William Paterson University and Columbia University.
TikTok is a social networking platform where users share short videos. Since its global launch in 2018, its popularity has skyrocketed, especially among teens and young adults. It now has 800 million users worldwide and 37 billion monthly visits in the United States alone.
One billion views with the hashtag #coronavirus
Using a hashtag of the #coronavirus, researchers examined and analyzed 117 TikTok videos, 17 of which were created by the World Health Organization (WHO). In total, the videos analyzed in the study received more than one billion views.
Less than 10 percent of the videos mentioned how the virus is transmitted, the symptoms of IDOC-19, and prevention of the spread of the virus. None of the videos, including those uploaded by the World Health Organization (WHO), discussed death and mortality rates, virus incubation time, wearing a face mask or travel restrictions.
The most commonly portrayed issues were anxiety and quarantine, with little focus on transmission and prevention of infection. This may be due to the fact that adolescents face many social and emotional challenges as a result of quarantine measures, ranging from dealing with school closures to demands to minimize contact with others.
Means of information
The researchers behind the study think this indicates a missed opportunity to engage young people with vital health information related to the global pandemic. TikTok could potentially be used to convey messages about controlling the spread of the coronavirus through the strict application of social distancing.
«It is essential that public health professionals adapt messages to make them more accessible. It is also essential to note that the credibility of TikTok as a source of information is threatened by those whose intentions are to undermine the health and safety of viewers. Identifying the types of barriers that prevent the use of social media platforms for the benefit of health and safety is the next crucial step,» explains study leader Corey Basch.