I have just returned from a family trip to Japan. This trip was the dream of my 15-year old daughter. She had studied and planned this trip for many months. In fact, she organized all of the itinerary and guided us through the streets and transportation systems of Tokyo and Kyoto like a local. Daily itineraries were planned geographically using Google Maps to optimize our time. I will not deny that this information can be categorized as the boring drivel of a proud father of no interest to others but for the fact, amazing to me, that her preparation mostly consisted of watching hundreds of TikTok videos.
We relented to the ubiquitous juvenile pressures and gave her first phone upon entering middle school with the rationalization that with her school being about one mile away this was a security matter. In any case, she soon developed the fast, repetitive muscle movements that result in sudden and difficult to control body jolts typical of adolescent girls that I call TikTok tics. Thankfully, this irritation resolved itself without medical intervention. But the sense of addiction to her phone is a continual source of anxiety for my wife (and me).
So the use of TikTok and her other internet applications in this positive way was a pleasant surprise. In fact, TikTok has been reaching out to educational creators to produce videos for the platform that speak to today’s kids. Un métier sérieux (called A Real Job for English language release) is a French film just released about teachers (actually filmed at my daughter’s school). In the film the teachers are shown to find teaching approaches on the internet that they then apply in their classrooms. I know my daughter often checks the internet for explanations of lessons specific to the French curriculum.
To wrap my mind around the reality that TikTok is my daughter’s window to the world brings to the fore topical questions of how we process information. Isn’t TikTok only a site for stupid, juvenile dance videos? How could anyone trust the information on TikTok? In the end each individual must always be assessing for themselves which sources are reliable. The one misstep of her research was the use of an eSIM to have internet access. We had pre-purchased this low cost, new technology (to me) before our trip. It was a complete failure in that neither my daughter, my wife, nor myself could get it to work. However, I admit that she showed me the video making the case for eSIMs and I agreed to using them. Furthermore, it is clear one has always had the same issue for any information source. For example, in annoyance to my daughter, my wife brought along the well known French guidebook, Guide du Routard. But even my wife had to admit that the Routard was inaccurate on occasion.
Don’t get me wrong. I still believe TikTok and other social network products and the organizations that have produced them have done much evil. Nevertheless, as a parent I must recognize that TikTok is part of my daughter’s world. Simply negating it without recognizing its positive aspects is not a pragmatically useful approach to helping my daughter navigate this difficult time to be growing up..