What Does TikTok Mean to You?

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What Does TikTok Mean to You?

Students in U.S. high schools can get free digital access to The New York Times until September 2021.

TikTok is used by nearly 100 million Americans for everything from education about climate change and the Black Lives Matter movement to dance videos and comedic skits. The app has been downloaded more than two billion times. Do you use TikTok? What role does it play in your life?

Despite the video sharing app’s popularity, or because of it, President Trump threatened this summer to ban it in the United States. In August, citing national security concerns, he issued a series of executive orders that required ByteDance, TikTok’s Chinese owner, to sell its American assets.

TikTok content creators have been responding and reacting to the threatened ban and eventual sale of TikTok.

Students, watch this four-minute Op-Ed video, then tell us:

  • How do you use TikTok? Do you mostly use the app to watch trending videos, or do you also post your own content on it? Do you like to watch the videos to learn new dances or laugh at pranks? Or are you interested in political activism or getting advice?

  • Spend three minutes scrolling through your TikTok feed and then categorize the videos you see as dance, education, humor, activism, conspiracy, pranks, fitness, fashion, pets, sports or advice. In general, how would you characterize the kind of content that the app shows you? Do you think it accurately reflects your interests?

  • What do you think is important, useful or good about TikTok? What concerns do you have about the app? Do you think that TikTok does more harm than good? Or do you think it is an important platform for self-expression, creativity and activism?

  • In August, Mr. Trump argued that, “The spread in the United States of mobile applications developed and owned by companies in the People’s Republic of China (China) continues to threaten the national security, foreign policy and economy of the United States.” Although there is no evidence that TikTok has shared data with the Chinese government, do you think this is something that the United States should be concerned about? Why or why not?

  • What kind of role, if any, do you think the government should have in managing apps and online technology? Do you think it is important for the government to control what everyday people have access to on the internet? Or do you think that infringes upon individual freedom?

  • Are you concerned about the kind of data and information that apps have about you? In the video, Rey Jarrell, a TikTok creator, said: “We should keep a close eye on the company. But we should also be keeping an eye on all tech companies, including American ones. Forcing a sale of this one app doesn’t solve our overall privacy problems.” What do you think? Should we be concerned about how other social media apps — like Twitter, Instagram or Facebook — use our data? Why or why not?


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Students 13 and older in the United States and the United Kingdom, and 16 and older elsewhere, are invited to comment. All comments are moderated by the Learning Network staff, but please keep in mind that once your comment is accepted, it will be made public.