TikTok is a rapidly growing social media platform among children and young people in the modern digital age. But while platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter have come under intense academic scrutiny for their potential impact on young people’s mental health, TikTok remains a relatively under-researched area. In a groundbreaking study from Dublin City University, Darrah McCasin and Collette M. Murphy systematically explore TikTok’s role in public and youth mental health.
Despite its ubiquitous nature, TikTok has not received academic attention, especially in the fields of psychology and psychiatry. McCasin and Murphy dive into this uncharted territory. The researchers first conducted a systematic review of existing research focusing on the role of TikTok in public health and mental health. Follow-up included content analysis targeting use of TikTok in an Irish context.
what did they discover? While TikTok is used in a variety of ways for public health and mental health purposes, adoption of organizational accounts has been slow. McCasin states in his study:
“Today, globally, TikTok is the fastest growing social media platform among children and adolescents, yet surprisingly under-researched in psychology and psychiatry. “Despite the inconsistent findings in the study, the fact that social media platforms have come under intense academic and societal scrutiny regarding their potential negative impact on the mental health and well-being of adolescents.”
TikTok, a social media company owned by Chinese tech company ByteDance Ltd., has sparked controversy over the platform in the United States. There have been multiple attempts to block or ban the platform within the United States. Nevertheless, as noted by Darrah McCasin and Collette Murphy, TikTok continues to grow and is the most widely used platform by children and adolescents (CYP).
“TikTok allows users to watch and create short videos between 15 and 60 in length with a variety of filters, music and lip sync templates,” the authors explain. “The unique selling point of TikTok is that the content presented to an individual is algorithmically generated and tailored to that individual’s specified preferences and previously liked content.”
Like all social media platforms, including Facebook and Twitter (now ‘X’), public health officials and mental health practitioners are interested in using them to disseminate useful information. Previous research on other platforms continues in his decade. Still, as TikTok’s expansion has only recently begun, it is important to understand how TikTok is being used to disseminate this information, whether the information being disseminated is accurate, and what is being done within the platform to educate the CYP. We don’t have much information yet about what such a possibility might be.
Researchers Darragh McCashin and Colette M. Murphy from Dublin City University explored the data on TikTok’s role in public health and mental health, with the goal of addressing current knowledge gaps.
To accomplish this, they devised two different studies. In Study 1, we systematically reviewed research on how TikTok disseminate public health and mental health information to children and young people (CYP). In contrast, Study 2 revisited this strategy and added an Irish-specific perspective to the data.
Study 1 used a specific search strategy that combined public health and mental health keywords with “TikTok”. The search was conducted from 2016 to 2021 across six databases: PsycINFO, PUBMED, Wiley, and Journal of Medical Internet Research (JMIR). Selection criteria included primarily his TikTok-centric publications in English. A systematic review process was conducted for both quantitative and qualitative studies.
Most of the studies were conducted in the United States (n=20), but this study also incorporated findings from China, Ireland, Australia, and Canada. A variety of research methods were employed, including content analysis, thematic analysis, and case studies. Some have used a mixed approach within their cross-section design. Research covers topics as diverse as COVID-19, dermatology, eating disorders, cancer, tics, radiology, sexual health, DNA, and general public health promotion. Presented Mr. McCasin and Mr. Murphy with a comprehensive range. However, after rigorous screening, only six of his studies met the criteria for “good quality.”
Given TikTok’s recent surge in popularity, extensive literature is lacking for a detailed analysis of the platform. Compared to other major social media platforms, this survey found a limited number of studies that could be interpreted more broadly. Furthermore, McCasin and Murphy observed a significant lack of diverse methodologies in existing studies. They advocate a more diverse analytical approach in his future TikTok research.
In conclusion, the researchers cautiously noted TikTok’s potential as a tool to promote positive mental and public health messages. However, given its widespread use and the limited evidence supporting its impact on CYPs, they emphasize caution about possible adverse effects. They noted a critical lack of prevalence of “professional accredited information” on the platform, indicating an urgent need for more authoritative content.
This means that most of the information comes from laymen disseminating information and may come from multiple sources, including some that are inaccurate.
“This poses a dilemma for the broader TikTok audience: To what extent does the under-teen user base distinguish between trusted mental health and public health professional information and non-professional equivalents? Can we?” write the researchers.
“Controlled studies investigating the relationship between behavioral changes across different topics and engagement on TikTok will advance our understanding of the precise factors that influence positive or negative outcomes. Data science approaches and qualitative data.” Combining more interdisciplinary in-depth research that fuses the collection of these with clinical interpretations, we build best-practice guidance for professionals who want to use TikTok to communicate important and impactful information to the CYP. It helps.”
Especially since the situation changes rapidly and frequently, inspections on the use of social media platforms are subject to public health considerations (ensuring that people have access to accurate information and that information provided is updated as necessary). It is essential from both an ethical point of view (identifying the villain) and an ethical point of view. disseminating inadequate information for personal gain, ensuring that ethical controls are exercised over practitioners with whom information is shared).
Additionally, recent research has found that self-labeling of mental illness diagnoses is prevalent on social media, especially on TikTok, which can lead to further suffering within the CYP.
The results of the study revealed that young people who stopped self-labeling improved their self-esteem, which “further supports the outsight view that self-labeling is generally detrimental to young people’s self-esteem and This, in turn, indicates that deprivation of self-label may have positive effects.”
Challenging negative perceptions, presenting alternative perspectives, and sharing facts that differ from conventional beliefs is essential for everyone, including children and adolescents (CYPs). Professionals, researchers and practitioners should be aware of both the risks and potential of this social media platform.
McCasin D, Murphy CM. Using TikTok for Public and Youth Mental Health – A Systematic Review and Content Analysis. Clinical Child Psychology and Psychiatry. 2023;28(1):279-306. Doi: 10.1177/13591045221106608 (link)