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Michigan joins nationwide investigation into TikTok’s impact on children

Michigan Attorney General joins multi-state investigation into TikTok
Published: Mar. 3, 2022 at 7:31 PM EST|Updated: Mar. 3, 2022 at 7:32 PM EST
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LANSING, Mich. (WILX) - Michigan joined an investigation into the social media app TikTok.

TikTok is an app where users can share short videos with each other, but Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel and Attorneys General from several other states said the app can be harmful to children because of how it markets itself to children.

The investigation will focus on TikTok’s methods for increasing young user engagement and how long children spend on the app. There are also concerns about harmful content children can be exposed to on TikTok.

Melissa Crain is a parent who shares these concerns. She said she lets her eldest three children use TikTok, but doesn’t allow her youngest to use it.

“I know my 20-year-old sometimes sucks a lot of hours away on TikTok, but my 12-year-old, my youngest, does not have TikTok,” Crain said.

She said her youngest son didn’t oppose not being allowed to use TikTok until he became more aware of it at his middle school. Crain said one reason she doesn’t allow him to use it is because TikTok’s age of use is 13 years old. She’s also concerned about what he could be exposed to.

“Kids can get exposed to material that we would really prefer them not to,” said Stephen Balkam, with Family Online Safety Institute. “But also kids themselves end up putting up content that we would prefer them not to as well.”

It’s not just what they see and post. Balkam said children can get involved in harmful behaviors, like bullying or sexting.

“It’s kind of both ways in terms of consuming but also producing that kind of content,” Balkam said. “Wrapped around all of that is just issues to do with over use. In other words, just consuming way too much content.”

That’s another reason Crain doesn’t let her youngest son use TikTok.

“I know the videos just continue to go and so it just gives him one less reason to be staring at his phone,” Crain said.

Balkam said parents that let their children use TikTok should talk to them about what they consume.

“Have these challenging but important conversations with your kids,” Balkam said. “Use the tools and, in some cases, just switch the devices off all together.”

News 10 reached out to the Michigan Attorney General’s Office for a comment. Nessel said she wouldn’t be talking about the ongoing investigation.

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