TikTok Addiction

TikTok causes student screen times to increase which can affect other aspects of their lives

The endless promise: five minutes, then work. Two clicks open the For You page, and there’s a video promising the easiest mug cake ever. Five minutes turns into ten minutes, twenty, an hour. The cycle doesn’t end. 

Since its rebranding in November 2018, TikTok has accounted for countless hours of screen time on millions of phones around the world. Content ranging from study tips to slapstick comedy videos means that there is something for everyone—and everyone has potential to fall into the algorithm. 

Senior Anna Jackson downloaded TikTok in 2019 out of convenience. Her friends would often text her videos, and she thought it would be easier to watch those clips directly from the app. Two minutes, maximum. Now, her phone logs more than twelve hours per week watching content. 

“I checked a while ago, because I wanted to see how much I used it. I think—on a good week —it was fifteen hours a week, which is absolutely terrible,” Jackson said. 

Freshman Jack Raynor first scrolled through TikTok during the beginning of the COVID-19 lockdown in March. With limited social activity and a new online learning environment, he was “really bored” and looking for something to do. The algorithm took this in stride.

“You have to love the algorithm. It caters directly to you: If you find something funny, it will put more of that in front of you,” Raynor said. After a certain amount of time, he said, “it probably knew me better than I knew myself.”

Consuming content of like-minded creators is something that Jackson admits is fun, but it is also “potentially problematic.” 

“The danger is that we can become so accustomed to a certain belief, and we’ve seen the consequences of that. We’ve seen people say, ‘Oh, I’m seeing this, and it’s on my phone so it must be true. This person said it and I saw it,’” Jackson said. 

Additionally, resisting the urge to scroll through hundreds of videos is challenging, especially during remote instruction. Both Jackson and Raynor’s attention spans have shortened to fit the one-minute format of content that TikTok provides, which can make it difficult to complete assignments. 

“I’ll be like, okay, I did five minutes of work, now I get to be on TikTok for an hour. You’re never going to get anything done that way,” Jackson said. 

One of the problems that Raynor faced from prolonged scrolling was the procrastination that came with it. 

“A thirty minute homework assignment would take an hour and a half. It made something that might’ve been slightly entertaining into a horrible experience,” Raynor said. 

Eventually school caught up with him, and he decided to stop using the platform in January of 2021. Doing so “wasn’t necessarily difficult,” but it made him realize how much time he had devoted to watching content. 

Jackson admitted that she “would consider” deleting the app, but it would be “really hard, thinking about how much time I spend using it.” 

“Why would people want to stop watching when they’re seeing exactly what they want to see?” Jackson asked.