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Inside the effects of TikTok and social media on children

Despite serious concerns, experts say there can be some positive sides to social media apps like TikTok.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — TikTok came under fire in Congress not just for national security concerns but also for its alleged role in spreading potentially harmful material to children.

"As a child and family therapist, it's probably one of the main issues that comes in the door here, especially for middle school and teens, but also sometimes for those younger kids too," said Lyla Tyler, licensed therapist and owner of Kid Counseling Sacramento.

Social media is everywhere and kids are finding ways to get their hands on it. One study found about 50% of kids and adolescents were spending five hours or more on social media per day. 

12% of them are spending up to 10 hours a day on social media.

"There's direct links to kids being more depressed that are on social media all the time. Body image, kids are dealing with that a lot. Cyber bullying, more psychiatric issues, problems, anxiety, sleep issues are big now because many of those kids are up in the middle of the night on social media," said Tyler.

In Thursday's congressional hearing with TikTok's chief executive officer, committee members showed a host of TikTok videos that encouraged users to harm themselves and commit suicide.

Kids might also be in danger from predators and adults posing as kids. 

"There's so much online grooming going on, on these platforms. It's pretty scary," said Tyler.

Despite serious concerns, experts say there can be some positive sides to social media apps like TikTok.

"There's some kids that really do struggle with making friends," said Tyler.

Jacques Cormier, an educator with years of experience working face to face with Sacramento students and their families, worries social media distances kids from consequences.

"When people don't have the social skills to interact in person, then now you're giving them a platform that actually distances yourself from consequences," said Cormier.

He also says adults need to step up and make the most of teachable moments.

"It's about giving them the information to be able to make the best choices that they can make when they're in those situations," said Cormier.

"There's some kids that have come in here to talk about things that they've learned on social media; they're actually pretty positive things they've learned," added Tyler. "It just matters where they're going on it. I think a lot depends upon their maturity level and ability to handle it."

TikTok's CEO says the company has about 40,000 moderators tracking harmful content and an algorithm that flags material. At home, experts say limiting time on social media for kids helps and trying to teach them empathy and kindness can go a long way.


A look how social media is impacting the youth

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