For Teens (and Adults) Fighting Misinformation, TikTok Is Still ‘Uncharted Territory’
December 7, 2022
TikTok may have started as the preferred social media platform for modern dance crazes, but the platform’s growth has made it a home for something else—misinformation.
Add to that its popularity among teens and its powerful algorithm, and you have a mix that worries some educators about TikTok’s potential negative impacts for young users.
A recent study from NewsGuard found that roughly one in five TikTok videos contain misinformation, whether the topic is COVID-19 vaccines or the Russia-Ukraine war.
“I think everyone is vulnerable to misinformation, but teenagers are especially susceptible with how much time they spend on the internet,” Alexa Volland, the News Literacy Project’s senior manager of educator professional learning, says. “For so long, we dismissed young people as being digital natives, but you’re not born with the ability to discern a quality piece of info from junk online.”
The News Literacy Project, a nonprofit that helps educators and students learn to judge the reliability of online information, recently launched a TikTok account to teach the platform’s users how to spot misinformation. However, Volland says, the challenge is doing it in a way that fits in with TikTok’s style.
“It is a platform that’s not really designed [for users] to leave and judge the credibility of its news elsewhere,” she says. “Finding balance between education and entertainment, that’s a struggle a lot of
people are having.”
It’s not just adults on the front lines in the battle against bogus information. The effort has also enlisted some recruits who deeply understand how and why youth use social media: teenagers themselves.