Social media is a multi-faceted topic. We have -somewhat unwillingly- entered this world only to witness massive changes in our behaviors and habits. Some people think that calling for the ban of specific social media applications impedes individual freedoms. However, “individual freedom” is a mere umbrella term that you should not fall for. Just look at developed countries and their overused media freedom motto that turned out to be a false slogan while freedom is crushed by the interests of states, groups, and political parties.
Today, let me talk about an important and sensitive topic. Let’s put aside false ideals that stress that we are part of the world more than anything else, and let’s forget that simply thinking about banning an application or media site is regressive and curbs freedoms. I am bitter because I have been meaning to talk about TikTok for a long time now, but I wanted to avoid addressing the political ramifications between the US and China during former President Trump’s term and let the dust settle. In a recent discussion with my daughter Dana, however, I felt provoked by the topics covered in this application. I believe that dangerous changes are brewing and may soon manifest in the social behaviors of our children. This is a fact and not an exaggeration, since most Saudis on this Chinese application are youngsters under the age of 13 who use it without parental supervision. Saudi parents are overwhelmed by technological developments and keen to make their children happy even by providing them with things whose dangers they are unaware of or even ignore.
Saudi kids are now talking about homosexuality and some even advocate for it. Kids are now talking about appalling atheistic topics that we have never expected them to be exposed to. They are also talking about their desire to leave Saudi Arabia and live abroad because of the alleged negative impact of our traditions on their lifestyles. It does not stop here, it gets worse. The biggest calamity is in the sheer number of comments that support these kids and engage with them from behind the screens. We do not know who these people are or what their motives might be. I am neither a proponent of isolation from the world nor an advocate of banning, but at this repulsive stage, the situation has become dire. The future consequences on the shifting mindsets and behaviors of our kids and their aversion to society are alarming.
I will not even talk about other negative effects and dangers like the sexual extortion of children, as these topics that have been amply covered by many people from countries that are more open and free than us. Some children even die in their attempts to take part in some popular TikTok challenges and trends. Take a look at the story of the Italian girl, as well as the reaction of the Italian government, the British government, and other countries like India, Pakistan, and others who consider children’s presence on this app to be dangerous.
Our kids are being manipulated. Parental supervision alone is not the solution as many lack the needed awareness to ensure their children are protected. We are facing a much bigger dilemma that is threatening the entire society through the nucleus of our future; our children. The painful truth is that what I saw on TikTok needs an official reaction. There is no shame in banning the application and approaching it as a real media threat inside our homes.
This article was originally published in, and translated from, Saudi Arabian outlet al-Riyadh.