At TikTok, we love seeing the joy, connection, and inspiration that our platform brings to millions around the world. Fostering an environment where this creative expression thrives requires that we also prioritize safety for our community, and especially our younger community members.
That's why we launched a global project to better understand young people's engagement with potentially harmful challenges and hoaxes. While not unique to any one platform, the effects and concerns are felt by all – and we wanted to learn how we might develop even more effective responses as we work to better support teens, parents, and educators. We also hope to contribute to a wider understanding of this area.
We surveyed people and consulted experts from around the world:
Surveyed more than 10,000 teens, parents, and educators from Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Germany, Italy, Indonesia, Mexico, UK, US, and Vietnam.
Commissioned Praesidio Safeguarding, an independent safeguarding agency, to write a report to capture key findings and recommendations. The report, written by Dr. Zoe Hilton, Director and Founder of Praesidio Safeguarding can be read here.
Convened a panel of 12 leading youth safety experts from around the world to review and provide input into Dr. Hilton's report.
Partnered with Dr. Richard Graham, a clinical child psychiatrist specializing in healthy adolescent development, and Dr. Gretchen Brion-Meisels, a behavioral scientist specializing in risk prevention in adolescence to guide and advise us.
What we learned about how online challenges and hoaxes are experienced:
Online challenges: Online challenges or dares typically involve people recording themselves doing something difficult, which they share online to encourage others to repeat. The majority are fun and safe, but some promote harmful behaviors including the risk of serious injury.
When asked to describe a recent online challenge, 48% of teens said recent challenges they had seen were safe, categorizing them as fun or light-hearted, 32% included some risk but were still safe, 14% were described as risky and dangerous, while 3% of online challenges were described as very dangerous. Just 0.3% of teens said they had taken part in a challenge they categorised as really dangerous.
Teens use a range of methods to understand the risks associated with a challenge, such as watching videos of others, viewing comments, and speaking to friends, and 46% said they want "good information on risks more widely" and "information on what is too far."
Suicide and self-harm hoaxes: Some challenges are hoaxes. A hoax is a lie intentionally planted to trick people into believing something that isn't true. The purpose of a malicious hoax is to spread fear and panic.
31% of teens have felt a negative impact of internet hoaxes and, of those, 63% said the negative impact was on their mental health.
56% of parents said they wouldn't mention a hoax unless a teen had mentioned it first, and 37% of parents felt hoaxes are difficult to talk about without prompting interest in them.
What we're doing to build on our existing safeguards:
Strengthening our protection efforts
Removing warning videos: The research showed how warnings about self-harm hoaxes - even if shared with the best of intentions - can impact the well-being of teens since they often treat the hoax as real. While we currently remove and take action to limit the spread of hoaxes, to protect our community we will start to remove alarmist warnings that could cause harm. We will continue to allow conversations to take place that seeks to dispel panic and promote accurate information.
Expanding our enforcement measures: Having strong policies is an important part of our safety strategy, and it's essential that they are coupled with strong detection and enforcement measures. The report identifies enforcement as an important focus for all online platforms. We have expanded technology that helps alert our safety teams to sudden increases in violating content linked to hashtags.
Offering new resources to support our community
Building on our Safety Center: We've developed a new resource for our Safety Center dedicated to online challenges and hoaxes. This includes advice for caregivers that we hope can address the uncertainty they expressed about discussing this topic with their teens.
Improving our warning labels and PSAs: Should community members attempt to search for content related to challenges or hoaxes, we have worked to improve the language used in our warning labels and to nudge community members to visit our Safety Center to learn more.