TikTok Brain

TikTok has an endless stream of short, fast-paced videos that are just super fun to watch. They use an algorithm that shows you new videos based on what you have previously watched so they know you should like it. It is quick to learn about things you like, your hobbies, interests, fashion sense, music tastes, even politics, sexual orientation, and sense of humor. It sounds great and it even feels great because each time you watch something you enjoy your brain releases a little bit of dopamine. This mimics the effects of taking drugs, giving you a little bit of “natural” high, so you want to watch more, and more, and more… if you are not careful you will develop TikTok brain.

TikTok brain can affect anyone, no matter their age, but it seems to occur more quickly among the younger set. Part of the scary thing is that your brain is not fully developed until you are between 25 and 30 years old, this makes it so that those who are younger find it harder to break the addiction. Gender can play into this as well. A ten-year study showed that there is a higher risk of suicide among 13-year-old teenage girls than boys who use social media for at least two to three hours a day. As they became adults their risk of suicide increased.

The most common effects of TikTok brain include:

  • Short attention spans, ADHD
  • Short term memory
  • Negativity
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Stress
  • Eating disorders
  • Poor sleeping habits
  • Neglected hygiene
  • Poor school performance
  • Decreased reading skills
  • Social isolation

TikTok is aware of the problem and has produced a “Well-being Guide” where users can come to share or read about others’ struggles and successes. It also includes reminders of safety and privacy controls and some helps for parents. They have also introduced “well-being prompts” for users aged 13-17. If they use the app for more than 100 minutes then TikTok will encourage them to use a screen time limit tool to help them control their usage.

Five Tips to Help Reset TikTok Brain

1. Customize the TikTok app. Pair your child’s TikTok account with family. This allows parents to set screen time limits. They can also limit a child’s access to inappropriate content. They can also limit who can send direct messages or turn the message feature off completely.

2. Use the screen time dashboard. There is a dashboard that shows how much time you have spent on TikTok, it breaks it down into daytime and nighttime usage and how many times you open the app per day. Learning to use this can help a kid or teen see where their time is being spent and help them increase control of usage on their own.

3. Another way to break the habit is to remove the app from your phone and only use it on a computer. This makes it so you can still enjoy the videos, but you don’t seem to want to sit at your desk for as long as you will lounge in a comfy chair or lay in bed mindlessly scrolling.

4. Have TikTok-free areas or times. Agree that there are certain times and places where TikTok can’t be used. Some examples may be at the dinner table, in bed, or while on public transportation. Dinner time should be when we look at each other and talk. Usage in bed often disrupts sleep. Concentrating on your phone while using public transportation can make you miss your stop or not pay attention, so you are easy prey for thieves or worse. Pointing out the value of choosing not to use the app during these times can help your teenager cooperate if they are being stubborn.

5. Replace with screen-free activities. Discover new interests, hobbies, and activities that will redirect the brain. Sports, music, art, even getting together and playing board games. Most communities have lots of options that are free through library programs. Here’s a link to 50 best screen-free activities by age to help you out.

It’s natural to interact with each other

Once we start breaking the cycle we will find it natural to continue, we are, after all, social creatures. In a podcast I listened to featuring Dr. Justin Dyer, a professor at BYU who specializes in Human and Community Development, he said,

“Our bodies, our minds, are born to bond with other individuals. They’re not set up to bond with cellphones and technology. Now, I love technology, we’re using it here, but if we are doing that at the expense of actual personal sitting down, holding somebody, we’re missing something that is so deeply necessary for us as human beings, as children of God, that we will starve ourselves of bonding. I think loneliness is that starvation for the actual connection with other people and being physically present with somebody makes a huge difference.”

Let’s just start spending time with one another again. Everyone pitches in to help make meals instead of one person in the kitchen listening to their phone while others are in other areas of the house watching their phones, computers, or TV. When you are outside your home, speak to others, make friends, communicate in person and you will soon discover that there is a lot of joy to be found in spending time with people.