student watching tiktok

Wakefield Students Divided on Potential TikTok Ban

With social media in the zeitgeist of what seems like every teenager in America, the imminent U.S. ban on TikTok has some students in the journalism class at Wakefield Country Day School reflecting on their own social media usage in day-to-day life.

And, students have a mixed bag of opinions on a potential ban.

“We grew up with TikTok,” said senior Sophia Korte. “It was the first app I had in middle school when it was known as; it was just a place to post short, funny videos.”

But, Korte said, she got tired of being bombarded with advertisements on TikTok, and replaced her time with YouTube and Instagram, platforms with a similar format.

“My life hasn’t been different without TikTok, in fact it’s been better,” Korte said.

TikTok and its parent company filed a legal challenge against the United States over a law outlawing the app unless it finds a non-Chinese buyer. The law that passed Congress is intended to force TikTok to be sold within a year.

Political attacks on press freedom, including the detention of journalists and widespread misinformation, have significantly increased this past year according to the annual World Press Freedom Index published by Reporters Without Boarders (RSF).

In a year when more than half the world’s population will go to the polls in democratic elections the Index shows a decline in press freedom and an increase in pressure from countries or politicians.

“This poses an exceptional problem: Protect freedom of speech, but what if that speech is all lies or half-truths?” asks senior Arella Nagle. “What if the ‘free speech’ inevitably, by the spread of lies and fear-mongering, leads to less press freedom? It’s a real dichotomy.”

The WCDS journalism class created a TikTok channel to share school updates and news, and Nagle said it’s been a good exercise in learning how to use social media from a business and marketing perspective.

Sophomore Daniel Fletcher said there are a lot of people using TikTok for their businesses, and if the app is banned, it will have an impact on their livelihoods.

“The biggest creators will probably be okay because they have large followings on other social media, but for smaller artists, they might have problems surviving,” Fletcher said.

Victor Alonzo, a sophomore says, “I’m an aspiring content creator on TikTok. I’ve been creating content for a while. The TikTok ban poses a very big threat because no other platform gives the same opportunities. This is a threat to other creators as well because the algorithm on TikTok allows people who aren’t as famous to get their voices heard by a large audience.”

Sophomore Blake Jordan said teenagers mostly use Snapchat for communication, and while a TikTok ban may create “a hole,” something else will inevitably fill its place.

“Banning TikTok will be a disappointment; some of my friends and classmates have already moved over to Instagram for watching funny videos,” Jordan said. “I’ll probably start watching Instagram, too.”

View this article written by Tana Brady as it was published in the Rappahannock News.

A question for Senator Warner

The Wakefield Country Day School journalism class participated in a conference call with U.S. Sen. Mark Warner, D-Virginia, and other reporters to ask the senator a question.

Freshman Will Wofford asked, “If the ban on TikTok goes through, do you think this sets a precedent for other social media organizations, even those owned by U.S. companies, as they may also pose a similar threat to spying or manipulation by AI?"

Warner replied that he was interested in online safety regulations, data portability, and using common sense rules-of-the-road. Warner said he has no interest in banning or prohibiting; the difference with TikTok is any Chinese company's first obligation is to the Chinese government, not shareholders, not students. TikTok is not even allowed in China. Warner stated he is interested in a reform of Section 230, which is basically a law that says online platforms have no responsibility for their content. The senator concluded, “If in your high school newspaper you put something out there that’s a bold-face lie, you’re going to get in trouble. In TV and radio stations there are rules of the road around broadcasting. Shouldn’t we have similar rules around social media?”