Research Assistant Cohen Children's Medical Center Steven and Alexandra Cohen Children's Medical Center New Hyde Park, New York, United States
Background: TikTok is a video-based social media platform, popular among adolescents worldwide. Social media plays an important role in adolescent development and well-being, especially regarding body image, yet the content of TikTok videos has yet to be explored.
Objective: To characterize user-created video content on the TikTok mobile application according to popularity, overall message, and participant demographics, as well as its potential for inducing body image issues among adolescent users.
Design/Methods: This study reports on a cross-sectional analysis of 436 user-created videos posted on the “Discover” page of TikTok, which shows the same popular videos to all users. Using coding guidelines developed by the researchers, information was collected regarding video genre and video participants’ gender, age, race/ethnicity, clothing coverage, and body size. Kendall Rank Correlations were calculated overall and by gender to determine if an association existed between body size and clothing coverage.
Results: Comedy (12.9%), pop culture (9.1%), and fashion (7.9%) were the most popular video genres on TikTok. Informational (7.3%), art (5.9%), tutorial (5.0%), storytelling (3.4%), and uplifting (3.9%) videos also comprised one quarter of content (Figure 1). Video participants (n=357) were predominantly White (45.9%), between the ages of 20 and 29 (48.7%), and represented a normal weight (females: 61.5%; males: 79.6%) (Figure 2A-C). Among female participants, 32.6% were coded as underweight (Figure 2C). Decreased body size was associated with decreased clothing coverage for video participants (n=304, p<0.001). When further analyzed by gender, this result remained significant for female participants (n=135, p<0.001), but not male participants (n=167, p=0.058). Conclusion(s): TikTok featured a wide range of positive content. However, the analyzed videos portrayed a high percentage of smaller body sizes which may result in body image concerns among adolescents. Pediatricians should be cognizant of these concerns, as adolescents may be viewing videos that display unrealistic body standards. Consistent with the American Academy of Pediatrics’ recommendations, parents or caregivers can co-view videos with their children to discuss positive and negative messages alike. While social media should be consumed carefully, TikTok’s broad array of content can open the door to important conversations with adolescents about diversity, body positivity, and creativity.
Authors/Institutions: Deborah S. Feifer, Steven and Alexandra Cohen Children's Medical Center, Lake Success, New York, United States; Elana R. Kriegel, Steven and Alexandra Cohen Children's Medical Center, Lake Success, New York, United States; Bojan Lazarevic, Steven and Alexandra Cohen Children's Medical Center, Lake Success, New York, United States; Ruth L. Milanaik, Steven and Alexandra Cohen Children's Medical Center, Lake Success, New York, United States