HARTFORD, Conn. — Multiple attorneys general are conducting a multistate investigation into TikTok amid concerns for the safety and well-being of children, Connecticut Attorney General William Tong announced Wednesday.
The investigation will dig into the social media platform as it claims to be promoting itself to kids and young adults, while the use of TikTok is reportedly associated with physical and mental health harms.
It will look into the harms that using the app can cause to young users and what TikTok knows about those harms. The investigation will also focus on the techniques TikTok uses to boost user engagement and time used on the app.
According to experts, certain content on social media can have an impact on young people and their mental health.
"That's what we worry about. Are those kids that are being exposed to things that they don't know how to take in that information and what to do with what they're seeing," said Dr. Melissa Santos with Connecticut Children's.
It is a concern for parents as well.
"I do worry about it only because of the amount of time that she spends on it. Some of it can be a really negative effect on her, and then she might bring it to school or share some content that I don't really agree with," said Onika Butler of West Hartford.
Teens themselves also recognize they can get sucked into the app and end up scrolling for longer than they'd like.
"It's just oh I'll sit down for 10 minutes and scroll a little bit and then it turns into 30 minutes, and then an hour and your mind is just looking for that video to like again," said Olivia Salino of Berlin.
It's not all negative. Teens, parents, and experts agree TikTok can be fun and positive. Experts encourage parents to set rules around screen time at home to help keep it that way.
"As a parent it definitely is scary so I am setting limits and some boundaries with her and she doesn't like them but I have to do what I have to do," Butler said.
Back in October, Tong, along with U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal called out the social media platform for "lack of policing" during the uptick in social media "challenges" which resulted in vandalized school property and concerns for student and teacher safety.
There are now plans to give Connecticut educators and parents the opportunity to discuss their concerns with TikTok, and Tong said that meeting is expected to take place later this spring.
"I appreciate that they have made efforts to remove some of the harmful content from their site, but whatever they have been doing just is not enough to protect our kids," Tong said. "Our investigation will look at what TikTok knew about the risks to our children, and precisely what they have been doing to keep our kids online. In coordination with attorneys general across the country, we are prepared to use the full weight of our consumer protection authority to hold TikTok and other social media giants accountable."
In a statement to FOX61 a TikTok spokesperson said, "We care deeply about building an experience that helps to protect and support the well-being of our community, and appreciate that the state attorneys general are focusing on the safety of younger users. We look forward to providing information on the many safety and privacy protections we have for teens."
In May 2021, Tong was among the 44 Attorneys General who urged Facebook to end its plans to launch an Instagram app for kids under 13. Six months later, Attorneys General launched an investigation into Meta, formerly Facebook, for promoting the Instagram app to kids, according to Tong.
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