The following editorial was originally published in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser on Sunday, June 4, 2023 as part of the “Raise Your Hand” column in the Insight section.
The app is highly addictive, affecting social development and mental health
By Rihanna Joaquin, Kealakehe High School, c/o 2026 (left)
TikTok has become one of the world’s most popular apps. From adults to young children, it seems that almost everybody has used the app, or is at least aware of its influence. While the app can be used in good and innocent ways, its many negative impacts have been largely overlooked. TikTok can be an addictive app and can seriously damage the mental well-being of its users — particularly young people. TikTok should be banned because it is harming youth and poses a significant national security threat.
First, TikTok should be banned because it is infecting the impressionable minds of young people. TikTok’s algorithm makes it highly addictive, particularly for youth who spend hours of their day scrolling on the app. Many people have developed serious screen-time addictions that have impacted their social development and mental health.
Additionally, there are many dangerous “trends” or “challenges” that have originated on the platform. Young people see short video trends posted by their favorite “influencers,” and are influenced to try out these trends for themselves. While many challenges are relatively harmless, some are risky and dangerous. For example, there are trends and dances that require flexibility and coordination. Some people do not have these talents but are eager to try them out anyway. Many young people who have tried these trends have ended up hurting themselves, sometimes even lethally.
TikTok should be banned because it is infecting the minds of youth, poses a national security concern, and creates the potential for theft of sensitive personal information.
— Rihanna Joaquin
Another not-so-innocent example is the trend of stealing things from public. While some of these trends have encouraged the theft of public signs or toilets, other more serious examples of the TikTok theft trend include vehicles. Theft is a serious crime and should not be promoted as a fun trend on social media. These sorts of trends negatively impact the mental and even physical well-being of young people, as well as the community around them.
In addition, TikTok should be banned because it is a national security threat. The Chinese Communist Party could have unlimited access to sensitive data the company collects from its American users. As a Chinese company, it is subject to Chinese national security laws that require them to turn over data to Chinese authorities on request. The Chinese government can spy on American users and gain access to their sensitive information including names, phone numbers, location data, financial information, or even browsing history. Additionally, the Chinese government can use the app to spread propaganda to its U.S. user base. This could lead to misinformation efforts and rumors that undermine American national security. Especially considering the growing geopolitical tensions of the moment, it is imperative that TikTok be banned to avoid further threats to the U.S.
In conclusion, TikTok should be banned because it is infecting the minds of youth, poses a national security concern, and creates the potential for theft of sensitive personal information. TikTok is not a necessity. There are other available avenues for entertainment that are less addictive and do not pose a serious national security threat. In order to mitigate these dangerous consequences, people should avoid using the app altogether and seriously consider what they are willing to trade off for personal entertainment.
Blatant censorship would harm democratic fabric of our society
By Brayden Jadulang, Kealakehe High School, c/o 2026 (right)
In the seventh grade, I downloaded TikTok out of boredom. I remember the wave of stagnation and isolation that followed the pandemic’s stay at-home order. Little did I know that the app would be so much more than an entertainment platform. Some claim that TikTok should be banned because of alleged national security concerns and because it is not absolutely essential. However, such a ban would be a flagrant act of government censorship and a violation of the First Amendment. Given the consequences of censorship, I believe that TikTok should not be banned. Undeniably, banning TikTok is a violation of the First Amendment. Recently, TikTok has metamorphosed from an entertainment platform to an information platform that resembles a search engine or a publisher. For example, a petition to stop the Willow Project, a proposed development project in Northern Alaska, gained steam on TikTok. The app helped the petition to garner an astounding 4 million signatures, with the number still climbing. TikTok has created a bridge between Gen Z and real-world problems — something that mainstream news outlets have been unsuccessful at accomplishing. It is essential for young people to be conscious of world issues and to have a meaningful say in enacting change. Additionally, a whopping 300 million people, or 1 out of every 3 Americans, use TikTok. Evidently, banning TikTok would significantly hinder the freedom of speech and expression of a large swath of Americans.
Moreover, banning TikTok would be an act of blatant censorship. History and literature have taught us that censorship signifies the start of a Machiavellian pipeline. Censorship leads to a lack of information, which could foster apathy, a lack of individualism, and excessive conformism. In other words, censorship creates the perfect breeding ground for authoritarianism. Many political powers have used this tactic to their advantage; some have even weaponized it. For example, the Taliban has banned TikTok to implicitly hinder Pakistani women, a large threat to their power, from seeing Western values and using them as a point of reference to live by.
Censorship leads to a lack of information, which could foster apathy, a lack of individualism, and excessive conformism.
— Brayden Jadulang
Additionally, we must not be myopic and must consider how such a ban could affect our future. In the dystopian novel “1984,” George Orwell depicts a futuristic totalitarian society built upon high surveillance and the censorship of intimacy. Likewise, the novel “Fahrenheit 451” portrays a futuristic society where the censorship of books and literature are key features. Both novels act as cautionary tales, telling a truth that we must not ignore.
Banning TikTok would be blatant censorship and would threaten the democratic fabric of our society. Given the millions of Americans who utilize the platform to communicate and advocate, along with the dangers of censorship that history and literature have warned us about, TikTok should not be banned.
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