TikTok is a Chinese video-sharing social network service owned by Bytedance. It’s used to create short music, lip-sync, dance, comedy, and talent videos. After merging with music.ly in 2018 TikTok became available worldwide. With the rise of users began the rise of a new sort of celebrity. Suddenly there were kids everywhere doing dances called ‘renegade’, ‘savage’, and ‘blinding lights’ like all their favourite TikToker’s were. They were doing ‘challenge’ videos and pretty much anything they could to emulate them. TikTok has 1 billion users worldwide, yet there are a certain amount of ‘influencers’ that dominate the app.
TikTok has an age limit of 13, yet with parental approval younger kids can access the app as well. It is this younger group that has skyrocketed some of these ‘influencers’ to fame that has a lot of adults scratching their head. Unlike celebrities of the past where people liked them for their acting, skills, brands, talent, TikTok influencers seem to be more a luck of the draw. Taking a quick glance at some of the ‘influencers’ on the app it is difficult to see why they got the following they did. Regardless of that, kids love them. This leads to the main questions, how much influence do TikTok influencers really have?
Bringing People together
Before we get into it we have to mention that the app itself is a great place to bring people from all over the world together and show different cultures. It can also be a damaging place that is rife with cyberbullying and risky content while being quite addictive. The videos range from 15 seconds to a minute long which means you’re constantly scrolling. This can reduce the attention span of young kids whose brain is still developing. There is a mental wellness option on the app to combat this but it is not well known. It’s up in the air whether the app is good for children or not considering a lot of the content could be considered for adults alone. Overall the app has a good premise with a select few on it that are now considered ‘influencers’.
As I struggled to find the answer to why they were so popular, I asked my 8-year-old niece why she loved Charlie and Dixie D’amelio so much. Her answer was that she liked their dances and Charlie helped her do the renegade. Unfortunately, this didn’t help me in clearing up why they were so popular, to begin with. There is no doubt though, that she knows exactly when Charlie or Dixie posts a new video. A quick look on her TikTok page showed a lot of her videos were pretty much the same. In the last 24 hours, she posted 7 videos and all of them were either her dancing or lip-syncing. Earning $25,000 dollars per video it’s no wonder that she posts so many in a single day.
Her influence has stretched so far that kids all over the world know who she is. Even kids without TikTok know of her. Her videos themselves seem unproblematic and her influence isn’t bad per se, just confusing. The reason for her fame is being able to do the popular dances. What make her so popular when there are thousands of other creators that can do the same? It seems to be luck that got her to the top. That doesn’t mean that she’s not a hard worker because it seems like she is. She is also part of the HypeHouse but does not live there. They are more problematic than Charlie as they show a complete disregard to the rules.
This is another TikTok that has a massive following. Their influence might be more damaging than the likes of Charlie as the HypeHouse has been surrounded by controversy in recent weeks. It has been documented that they have been throwing massive parties during the Covid-19 pandemic and saying on camera that they don’t care about the virus. This has led to a lot of teens thinking it’s cool to ignore something as serious and to act as they do in the HypeHouse. As far as I can see they offer nothing substantial to the app. They still seem to have a large following, though. It might be just a right of passage for young teenagers and children to follow trends like this without really thinking too much about it. Unlike influencers a few years ago, TikTok influencers seem to still be children themselves and have no idea how to conduct themselves or be a good role model for their viewers.
There is an argument to say that they never asked to be role models but that just doesn’t stick. If you have a following and you are earning money solely off being an Influencer then it falls to you to be a good role model for the kids watching. If the limit of TikTok was brought up to over 16s would these people still be popular? Probably not. TikTok’s algorithm sees the videos you like and tailors your ‘For You’ page to reflect that. I personally have never seen a TikTok from Charlie, Dixie, or anyone in the HypeHouse on my For You page. In contrast though, my 8-year-old nieces For You page has nothing but videos from them on it.
The influence these TikTok Influencers have on young kids is disconcerting as they will try to imitate them. This could lead to children acting out of character, thinking it’s okay to ignore the rules, seeing harmful ‘pranks’ as just a joke, and could very well distort their self-image. They have a lot of influence over impressionable children and teenagers that could be damaging. This does not necessarily mean they are bad. There are options to block accounts on the app that you might not find appropriate. As with any type of influencer these days, you should take them with a pinch of salt. No one ever depicts their real selves online. While they might have a lot of influence over children if TikTok didn’t exist kids would find someone else to obsess over as we all did at one time or another.
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