Ofcom reveals that 16% of British toddlers use TikTok

toddlers use tiktok, social media
© Michele Ursi

According to Ofcom, 16% of British toddlers use TikTok – while one third of children between the ages of five and seven use the social media platform

TikTok, the social media platform that currently dominates the market, has a surprising user demographic – children aged three and four. The app, touted as having one of the most powerful algorithms, loops video in an addictive pattern.

One third of five to seven year olds use TikTok

Ofcom have revealed that 16% of toddlers in the UK actually use the app, which is intended for users aged 13 and older. When it comes to children in the five to seven year old age group, this figure goes up to one third of all children.

A TikTok spokesperson, quoted in The Guardian, said: “Nothing is more important to us than the safety of our community, especially young people. TikTok is strictly a 13-plus platform and we have processes in place to enforce our minimum age requirements, both at the point of sign up and through the continuous proactive removal of suspected underage accounts from the platform.”

Open letter says children are too vulnerable to use social media

Instagram once had plans to create a version of the social media app for under-13s, which were scrapped once the idea was leaked to the public. An open letter, written by NGOs and child protection experts, describes that children under the age of 13 are at a tender, formative stage of their lives.

The letter explains that: “children experience incredible growth in their social competencies, abstract thinking, and sense of self.

“The platform’s relentless focus on appearance, self-presentation, and branding presents challenges to adolescents’ privacy and wellbeing.”

TikTok contributes to body image issues in children

According to UK police reports, Instagram is the platform with the highest rates of sexual grooming. Investigations have found over 20 million child sexual abuse images on the platform, in 2020 alone. While TikTok has a less prominent grooming problem, it faces similar issues to Instagram when it comes to eating disorders and self-harm.

TikTok has been given widespread criticism for the glorification of a certain body type, which can reinforce negative body image messages for thousands of children – who are in turn advertised more of the same by an intelligent algorithm. Even adults feel significantly impacted by body image messaging on the platform.

The EU are currently in the process of implementing legislation to hold social media platform owners responsible for online harms. Currently, the responsibility for online harms is not legislatively decided, leaving individual Governments to propose consequences for lack of regulation from tech giants like Meta and Google. 

For now, the long-term psychological effects of toddlers using TikTok remains unknown.


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