Should educators stop using TikTok in their classrooms?

State bans on government-owned devices using the short-form video platform controlled by the Chinese Communist Party are gaining momentum, as my colleague Tom Steward has recently written about here and here.

Given national security concerns with the app, Congress is also moving closer to reining in TikTok at the federal level, with a bill passing in the U.S. Senate but still having a ways to go before becoming law.

“And yet the platform is allowed to remain in public schools, and even to be used in classrooms,” writes Garion Frankel with the Texas Public Policy Foundation.

From administrators filming TikToks with their students, to teachers incorporating TikTok into classroom instruction, the temptation to use the platform to “connect” with students is understandable, continues Frankel, “but not justifiable.”

For one thing, platforms like TikTok alter the way students think. While all social media platforms have addictive properties, TikTok’s short video lengths mean kids can watch dozens of videos in mere minutes. As David Barnhart, a clinical mental health counselor at Behavioral Sciences of Alabama, explains, this sends the brain’s reward pathway into overdrive, and children in particular begin to require constant stimulation in order to remain sane.

Moreover, even if a teacher tries to integrate TikTok as a learning tool, kids can, will, and do easily swipe to an unrelated, possibly inappropriate video. Even more alarming is the fact that disreputable people and organizations know exactly how to exploit TikTok addiction.

TikTok challenges have also encouraged inappropriate and dangerous student misbehavior, Frankel reminds us, such as slapping teachers, stealing and vandalizing school property, treating sexual misconduct on school grounds as a joke, and even forcing school lockdowns.

When educators allow and incorporate TikTok in the classroom, no matter how much the platform is diluted for school use, they are facilitating access to harmful material. And when that harmful material is enough to cause thousands of dollars in damages to taxpayers, then it becomes everyone’s problem.

There are many creative and innovative ways to engage students in lessons that don’t come with the dark corners of TikTok. “The possible harms to kids and schools outweigh any educational benefit the platform may provide,” Frankel concludes. “Therefore, educators shouldn’t wait on the federal government to ban TikTok — they should’ve gotten it out of schools yesterday.”