See what SHS teens say about TikTok

As social media rises in popularity, one specific question always pops up: How is it affecting teenagers? Although all social media apps have raised this question, one in particular has raised it the most: TikTok. 

Zander Bowling, SHS sophomore, sees TikTok as one of the most used social media apps. And while he mainly uses the app for entertainment, he also uses the app to communicate with friends.

“There's some really cool facts and information you can learn from TikTok,” he said.

Bowling added that TikTok has expanded his social circle and he thinks the app brings together unlikely groups of people. 

Although with benefits, Bowling has found a few downsides – one of the biggest obstacles he faced is his screen time, which has hit over four hours on a few days. He downloaded the app in 2019 and hasn't put it away or taken a break since. 

“I basically haven’t stopped using TikTok for four years,” he said. 

Bowling’s parents also use TikTok, and while he estimates they spend about an hour on the app, he thinks he spends around three to four hours per day on TikTok. 

“I actually spent an average of two hours on TikTok today,” he said, after a quick look at his usage.

When asked if he thought the app was easily addictive, Bowling said he has personally found the app hard to stay off of and found himself caught up in TikTok for hours without realizing.

“I think it’s an easily-addictive app,” he said. 

While Lilli Gilstrap, SHS junior, does not have much meaning tied to TikTok she still uses the app fairly often, especially for entertaining videos. 

“It's kind of just an app that I use to watch videos on,” she said.

Gilstrap believes that the app gives new exposure to different cultures and social groups, as well as recent news, especially concerning politics. 

“I think TikTok exposes you to things you never really expected or knew before,” she said.

Although new exposure isn't always good according to Gilstrap, who stated that you can also be exposed to more drug-related or alcohol-based information, Gilstrap reflected on moments where she felt that the “rich life” or the “cool life” feels shoved in your face.

“It definitely has made me compare myself to a lot of people I see on my For You page,” she said.

She has also taken a few small breaks, not long, but long enough to give herself a moment in between. During these breaks Gilstrap found it was easier to give herself some time, and focusing on herself came more naturally. 

“I actually did things that benefited me and my well-being,” she said.

Gilstrap does not consider TikTok an addiction and estimated she spent around six to seven hours on TikTok daily. When checked, Gilstrap found she spends around two and a half hours a day on TikTok.

“I thought it would be so much worse,” she said.

For senior Bristin Stone, TikTok is a form of escape from outside things, mainly using the app to pass time and communicate with friends. 

When asked how TikTok benefited Stone, she replied that the app has taught her new recipes, as well as allowed her to expand her social circle. 

“TikTok has benefited me by allowing me to post videos whenever I would like,” she said.

Stone has also had a few setbacks, including screen time and inappropriate content. She believes the app has harmed her ability to stay focused for long periods of time.

“I find it harder now than ever to focus on longer videos or presentations,” said Stone.

She is currently taking a break from the app, she believes this has helped her stay off her phone more as well as helped her in-person interactions.

Prior to her break, Stone estimated she spent a little less than two hours per day on TikTok, and actually spent two and a half hours on TikTok. 

“I wouldn't consider it an addiction in my case, but I do think people can get addicted to TikTok,” said Stone. 

Sabra Smith, who graduated in 2023, uses TikTok for the videos and entertainment, to procrastinate and fill in extra time. 

“It’s a good time-waster,” she said. 

Smith stated that she felt there were no benefits to her having TikTok, and commented that the app promotes laziness and procrastination. She also felt that even with information you learn, you can’t confirm whether or not it's real. 

“It's fuel to the fire,” she said.

In Smith's experience with TikTok, she has never taken a full break but has cut down her time from an average of two hours per day to 46 minutes per day as of recently. 

“I feel like I've lost a lot of brain cells because of TikTok,” she said.

While Spanish teacher Heather Nale is not in regular use of TikTok, she is still active on the app. She originally downloaded the app due to her students using and talking about the app. 

“I just wanted to know what they were talking about and why they were dancing at their desks during class,” she said. 

Nale follows a few choreographers, teachers, BookTok, and just other random accounts, which has helped her learn new ideas for her classroom, as well as great book recommendations. 

Along with those benefits, there have been great setbacks through TikTok, a few have been harsh news that has affected Nale or others.

“I hate when I open the app and it's a rude video about a person or a group of people,” said Nale.

With Nale being a dance teacher and Spanish teacher, she has a multitude of students that use TikTok, and said that she sees them on TikTok quite often. She estimates that her high school students spend an average of four hours on TikTok per day, and estimated she spends about an hour on TikTok when she gets on, which rounds to about 20 minutes a day throughout the week. 

Nale doesn't believe she has an addiction to TikTok, but has noticed an addiction to her phone, as well as her students' addiction to their phones.

“I definitely think I am addicted to my phone, but I could still function without TikTok.”