TikTok and the youth

Chu Min Wei

As the popularity of TikTok and other social media platforms continues to grow, parents, educators and policymakers need to recognise the potential negative impact of excessive use on students’ academic performance and mental well-being. – EPA pic, May 1, 2023.

TIKTOK videos are typically between 15 seconds and 60 seconds in length, with most videos falling in the 15- to 30-second range.

This short-form format is intentionally designed to keep users engaged and increase the likelihood of content going viral.

The TikTok algorithm shows users’ relevant and exciting content based on their previous viewing and interaction history.

While it can provide users with a personalised experience that may be enjoyable and entertaining, the ikTok can also have some potentially adverse effects on the mindset of some users.

For example, the algorithm can create a filter bubble, where users are only exposed to content that reinforces their beliefs and interests, leading to a limited perspective of the world.

This means that the length of a video is just one factor that the algorithm considers when deciding whether to show it to a user. Other factors include the type of content, hashtags used, and engagement metrics such as likes, shares and comments.

The short-form nature of TikTok videos is a deliberate strategy to make content creation accessible to everyone, regardless of skill level or experience.

By keeping videos short and sweet, TikTok has democratised content creation and sharing, leading to a surge in user-generated content.

These videos, typically only a few seconds to a few minutes long, can potentially affect students’ ability to read and focus.

It may lead to a reduced ability to concentrate on tasks that require sustained attention, such as reading and studying. This is because the rapid-fire nature of TikTok content can train the brain to crave constant stimulation and instant gratification.

Although it can train the brain to process information quickly, it potentially comes at the expense of depth and complexity.

This may impact students’ reading comprehension skills as they become accustomed to receiving information in short, digestible snippets rather than engaging with longer, more complex texts that require sustained focus.

The popularity of TikTok in Malaysia has led many young people to spend excessive time on the app, often at the expense of other activities.

Concerns have been raised about the potential impact of TikTok’s short-form content on the Malaysian youth’s reading and concentration abilities.

They need assistance integrating fragmented information into systematic knowledge with a categorisation framework that a critical media literacy education could help.

One such study by the Malaysian Communication and Multimedia Commission found that TikTok was the most popular social media platform among Malaysian youth, with 54% of respondents aged 18-24 using the app regularly.

Also, survey results by the Malaysian Institute of Translation and Books concluded that 42% of respondents reported spending less time reading books since they started using TikTok.

Therefore, making accurate predictions about TikTok’s impact on the Malaysian youth’s reading and focus abilities is difficult.

Still, the author believes that social media addiction and reduced reading habits are likely to continue unless measures are taken to address the issue.

As the popularity of TikTok and other social media platforms continues to grow, parents, educators and policymakers need to recognise the potential negative impact of excessive use on students’ academic performance and mental well-being.

This may involve implementing measures to limit screen time, encourage a healthy balance of activities, and promote reading and other offline activities.

Furthermore, it is essential to acknowledge that technology and social media platforms like TikTok are not inherently good or bad.

Instead, how they are used can have a positive or negative impact. Thus, students must learn to use technology and social media platforms responsibly and in a way that supports their academic and personal goals.

In conclusion, while TikTok may continue to affect the youth’s reading and focus ability, the impact will largely depend on how students, parents, educators and policymakers respond to the issue.

Promoting the responsible use of technology and encouraging a healthy balance of activities can mitigate the negative impact of TikTok and other social media platforms on students’ academic and personal development. – May 1, 2023.

* Chu Min Wei holds a degree in Journalism (minor in Political Science) from UTAR and is a member of the Agora Society. She is interested in the study of subculture and media, and believes that institutional reform could have a greater impact on marginalised subcultures and the media landscape.

* This is the opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malaysian Insight. Article may be edited for brevity and clarity.

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