Family Digital Wellness: Banning TikTok – 5 Q&As

TikTok was one of the main reasons the Pa Family Support Alliance created the Family Digital Wellness initiative in 2022. The video sharing app has more than 170 million users in the U.S., many of whom are of younger ages, and is known for its addictive nature. On March 13, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a measure that could lead to a ban of TikTok. The bill is currently before the U.S. Senate, and President Joe Biden has said he will sign it into law should it reach his desk.

Here are five answers to questions that we’ve received about the potential banning of TikTok:

Why did the U.S. House of Representatives vote to ban TikTok? TikTok is owned by China-based ByteDance. With TikTok’s popularity in the U.S., lawmakers are concerned that the Chinese government could access of U.S. consumers whenever it wants due to Chinese national security laws that “compel organizations to assist with intelligence gathering,” according to the Associated Press. If signed into law, ByteDance would have six months to sell TikTok or lose access to U.S.-based app stores and web-hosting services.

What are the concerns or risks associated with TikTok that could lead to a ban? The ban centers mostly around the company’s connections to the Chinese government. Some legislators, however, indicated that they voted in favor of the measure to protect youth mental health. Rep. Jake Auchincloss (D-Massachusetts) told NewsNation that “I have dropped legislation just this week to hold all social media corporations — Meta, Instagram, TikTok, Twitter — accountable for protecting our youth online. But again, all those ones … are already subject to U.S. law. TikTok is not. So, this bill is the first step to bringing parity to how we regulate these social media corporations.”

Could other social media platforms be banned? It remains to be seen if other social media platforms would be banned if TikTok is banned, but it is highly unlikely. As noted in the answer above, Meta and X are both U.S.-based corporations that are subject to U.S. law. However, all these platforms have played a role in the youth mental health crisis and must take steps and actions to remedy the problem.

Are Pennsylvania lawmakers considering a ban on TikTok? The state House on March 25 advanced legislation that would ban any app controlled by a “foreign adversary” from being installed on state-owned devices. The bill must go through third consideration before going to the Senate, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Last month, we wrote about HB 2017, which would require parental consent for children under 16 to create social media accounts, as well as require social media companies to supervise chats involving two or more minors; inform parents about any “flagged sensitive or graphic content”; and limit data mining on users under the age of 18. This legislation, written by Rep. Brian Munroe (D-Bucks) and three students, is up for possible consideration by the state House.

If TikTok isn’t banned, how can I protect my children when they’re using the platform?

·       Teach your child(ren) what to do if they come across digital content that is inappropriate or makes them uncomfortable.

·       Encourage and model positive behaviors related to digital devices and environments.

·       Across all devices and apps, use parental controls. These controls are generally found in the “settings” or “privacy” sections. Your internet service provider most likely has parental controls that can also be activated but check with your provider directly.

·       Be present and supervise your child(ren) while they are online and using digital devices.

·       Make sure your child(ren) know who they can talk to if they encounter a situation they do not know how to handle.

For more tips, visit the resources tab of the Family Digital Wellness hub.

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