What Is The TikTok Video App & Is It Really Dangerous?

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After getting ready for a wedding, seventeen-year-old

Zoe Laverne

pulled out her iPhone, took a slow-mo video of herself twirling in her bedroom, and paired it with “Castle on the Hill” by Ed Sheeren. Two days later, the video has 337,000 likes and over 10,000 comments. Zoe, like a

growing number of teen influencers

, is well-known and loved for her videos on



The app has gotten so big that the 2019 Emmys did a whole bit about it, but unless you’re a Gen Z’er, or are super hip and with the times, you might still think TikTok is just a


bop from 2009. And while you’re not wrong, if you ask any young person under 20, they’ll tell you TikTok is their very lifeblood. A complete subculture, TikTok has taken the tweeny boppers by storm, leaving us millennials completely in the dust of Instagram and Facebook.

Originally launched in April 2014 as Musical.ly, TikTok is a lip-syncing app that boasts over 500 million users worldwide. Musical.ly was purchased by Chinese company ByteDance in November 2017 and officially absorbed into their already existing app called TikTok in August 2018. The app is known for short lip-syncing videos, endless challenges (ex.

The Mannequin Challenge

), and making Millie Bobbie Brown’s friend,

Jacob Sartorius

, break the iTunes charts. A social media platform teeming with Gen Z users, TikTok is basically the new Vine, with a music twist.

What Is A TikTok Challenge?

TikTok challenges are akin to Facebook’s ice bucket challenge or the recently minted #DollyPartonChallenge on Instagram. Characterized by participation from users across the platform (both famous and not), they’re often centered around specific dances, movements, or songs. TikTok challenges are as ephemeral as trending news, but right now you’ll see popular challenges/dances to songs such as “All Dat” by Moneybagg Yo & Megan Thee Stallion and “Round of Applause” by K’ron.

Originally made for lip-syncing to your favorite songs, TikTok has exploded in all different directions. The feed is filled with fifteen-second vertical videos across genres — from dancing to gymnastics to short-form comedy— their one uniting factor is some kind of audio (either a song or voiceover). It has its own audio library, with a diverse catalog including popular songs and silly voiceovers (a la

the emoji challenge

), as well as Snapchat-esque filters. Users can garner likes and comments similar to Instagram, and, of course, like any other social media platform, TikTok has its very

own influencers

, some of whom

recently bought a house together


Why Is TikTok In The News?

The app is also somewhat controversial: The Government of India asked Google and Apple to remove the app from their respective app stores. The Madras High Court originally

asked for the ban months ago

stating that the app was “inappropriate for children” and “encouraged pornography.” The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (Meity) has

put a ban on downloading the app in India

, though existing users have yet to lose access. Whether or not a complete ban will go into full effect is still up in the air, this isn’t the first time TikTok has been in the news for being a bad influence on children. Back in July 2018,

Indonesia banned the app.

However, now a new type of TikTok girl has entered the ring:

a VSCO girl


Like any other social media platform, there is always the possibility for inappropriate behavior, especially when minors are involved. TikTok’s parent company, Bytedance, does work to remove videos in violation of the Terms of Use, but that can only go so far. In recent months, many social media sites have taken action to protect young people on their platforms — for example,

YouTube has disabled comments

on videos made by minors to protect them from predators. Only time will tell how TikTok continues to fend off potential threats, but for now TikTok and its community of booty-shaking, challenge-accepting tweens is mostly harmless.


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