Time to Tik-Stop
This year Queensland Youth Week is held from 11–17 April 2023. It is an annual celebration of young people aged 12 to 25 years and their positive contributions to Queensland.
Our youth are now the first generation to be surrounded by digital technology and the internet since the day they were born. This demographic cohort is colloquially known as "Gen Z" or "Zoomers". They are the population group between the Millennials and the Gen Alphas. They were typically born between the mid-to-late 1990s and the early 2010s. Most are the children of Generation X. Yes, it is a lot to keep up with.
Growing up in a world saturated with digital technology, they have been exposed to the internet, social media, smartphones, and other technological advancements. This early exposure to technology has shaped how Generation Z communicates, learns, and consumes information. They are more tech-savvy than previous generations and are quick to adopt new technologies.
According to the latest report published by the eSafety Commission, "The Digital Lives of Aussie Teens (2020)":
• Teens spend an average of 14.4 hours a week online – males spent more time online (15 hours) than females (13.8 hours)• Teens use the internet for a range of activities, including researching topics of interest – 95% watching videos, movies or TV – 93% chatting with friends – 93% listening to music – 92% and online gaming – 77%• Teens use an average of four social media services – YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, and Snapchat remain the most popular apps/platforms. However, Tik Tok– has shown the most significant growth, from 12% of teens in 2017 to 38% in 2020.
In recent years, the rapid rise of social media platforms has become an essential aspect of youth culture, warranting a closer look at their potential risks and dangers, particularly Tik Tok, during Queensland Youth Week.
Chinese company ByteDance created the social media platform, first launched in 2016 under the name Douyin. It was initially intended for the domestic market. A year later, in 2017, it was released internationally under the brand name TikTok. It quickly soared in popularity across the globe. Having previously used it myself, I can identify with the appeal of its user-friendly capability to create entertaining, short-form videos set to music.
However, there have been growing calls to ban Tik Tok, with serious issues concerning its use of facial recognition technology. This is how it works.
When you download TikTok, you must agree to a set of terms and conditions to allow the app to function. These include access to your phone's microphone, camera, contacts, location services, and clipboard. The more you "like" videos, follow an account, or watch a TikTok video until it ends, the more the algorithm learns about your interests. The more it keeps you scrolling, the more ads you see.
Here is an example. Have you ever wondered why you could be thinking (or talking) about, let's say, a new car, and suddenly, you get lots of ads about new cars? It might feel like a strange coincidence or someone reading your mind. What it is, is Tik Tok's facial recognition technology uses artificial intelligence and algorithms to analyse and identify specific features on your face. TikTok uses this technology to send you ads and content in direct response to your reactions.
So unbeknownst to you, TikTok is analysing your facial expressions. Detecting signs of interest or excitement can determine that you may be in the market for a new car. Once the algorithm has made this connection, it immediately sends you targeted ads related to new vehicles. Because this process occurs subtly and quickly, it feels like it somehow tapped into your thoughts.
But it is not just the manipulation that is of concern; it is the "harvesting" of the information as well. TikTok collects a massive amount of facial recognition information. This data is stored and processed, forming a comprehensive database that contains unique identifiers for individual users, such as age, gender, ethnicity, and facial expressions. This is then sold to 3rd party organisations for targeted marketing campaigns, product development and research.
In response to these significant concerns, the United States banned Tik Tok on all federal government devices late last year. Last week, the Albanese Government followed suit.
As Queensland Youth Week commemorates the accomplishments and prospects of young people, it's crucial to acknowledge the influence of digital platforms on their lives. By heightening awareness about the risks associated with Tik Tok and advocating for digital security, we can equip young users with the tools and knowledge they need to traverse the online landscape safely.
Ready to re-think Tik Tok? Absolutely. It's time to Tik-Stop.