Is TikTok good or bad when it comes to young people’s wellbeing?
Many of us have heard that TikTok—now the world’s most downloaded app—is harmful to young people due to several factors: the controversial ways the company has invaded the privacy of kids using their personal information; the fact that the platform is highly addictive; promoting unhealthy body image; and several additional reasons. On the other hand, teens are also using it in positive ways to learn about mental health issues (including their own), sharing various perspectives on current events, or simply making each other laugh.
Where do we at Experience Camps land on this issue? We see social-media platforms as tools, and whether they are good or bad depends on how they are used.
Kids like Ava are why we do what we do. #grief #grievingkids #talkaboutgrief #deaddadclub #school #mentalhealth #bullyingawareness
For us, TikTok has been a powerful and extremely helpful digital tool. It has allowed us to shine the light on young people who are grieving as they express their thoughts and ideas about grief with others who are going through similar experiences. Our campers are taking what they’ve learned at camp and educating followers who have or have not experienced death firsthand in best practices to build a kinder, more grief-sensitive culture.
Experience Camps gained over 28,000 TikTok followers in six months and received millions of views. People of all ages have thanked us for opening real discussions about what grief is like and the huge impact it’s had on their lives. They have commented about their own losses and even taken pleasure in simply sharing the name of their person who died.
TikTok has been helpful to us on a practical level as well: Our account has directly brought in over 50 volunteer applications (25 of whom we hired), and several campers this summer. We’ve worked with TikTok influencers who have shared our mission with their thousands of followers, helping us reach even more people who can use grief support.
Do we also sometimes hear in comments from people who challenge our motives and intentions (quite aggressively at times)? Of course we do—this is social media, after all. Some people have questioned whether we’re pushing “toxic positivity” (we’re not; we make room for all the feels, not only joy); why we are pushing a religious agenda (we’re not; we have zero religious affiliation) and whether grief camp should be pushed on everyone (nope, we don’t think so either). It can be frustrating and demoralizing when people vent, especially when the facts are wrong.
But we plan to stick with TikTok because we believe in the good we’re able to do and let’s face it—it’s important to meet kids where they are and this is where they are right now. As for you—if you are a parent, caregiver, mentor, or educator—we highly encourage you to take a look at our account (click here!) with your grieving child(ren), and use our TikToks as springboards for conversations with them. Our hope is that, together, we can use this powerful tool for collective good, positive mental health, and yes, even for healing.
Michelle Cove is the Director of Communications at Experience Camps. She founded the nonprofit MEDIAGIRLS. She is an award-winning documentary filmmaker, journalist, and national bestselling author whose projects have been featured on numerous national platforms including “The Today Show,” The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, and The New York Times.