A group of state attorneys general have launched an investigation into TikTok's impact on kids' mental health

A group of state attorneys general have launched an investigation into TikTok's impact on kids' mental health
A young girl uses the TikTok app on a smartphone.Peter Byrne/PA Images via Getty Images
  • State attorneys general across the country announced an investigation into TikTok on Wednesday, the AP reported.
  • It will focus on how the platform impacts younger users' mental health.

A host of state attorneys general began an investigation into TikTok's impact on children's mental health, the Associated Press reported.

It's the latest in an outcry from government officials over children and social media sites. President Biden mentioned the topic in his State of the Union address Tuesday, advocating for banning targeted advertising for kids and holding "social media platforms accountable for the national experiment they are conducting on our children for profit," he said.

"Our investigation will look at what TikTok knew about the risks to our children, and precisely what they have been doing to keep our kids online. In coordination with attorneys general across the country, we are prepared to use the full weight of our consumer protection authority to hold TikTok and other social media giants accountable," Connecticut Attorney General Tong said in a statement.

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It will also look into whether the company violated state consumer protection laws, the statement added.

Several state AGs announced the investigation Wednesday. It's being led by California, Florida, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Nebraska, New Jersey, Tennessee and Vermont, according to the AP. It's unclear exactly how many states are participating.


"Because there are states not authorized to disclose an investigation, we cannot share the total number or list of states," Elizabeth Benton, a spokesperson for Tong, said in an emailed statement.

TikTok is notable for its mesmerizing algorithm. TikTok has a billion monthly users as of September 2021 and beat Instagram for usage by kids 12 to 17 in 2021, according to a Forrester survey.

The app has also minted a new generation of entrepreneurs and driven viral real-life trends: some innocuous, like making a feta cheese, pasta, and tomato casserole dish, or potentially more harmful, such as claiming to steal equipment from schools.

TikTok has attempted to respond to criticism about its usage among children. It rolled out Family Safety Mode in February 2020 but in January 2021 bolstered privacy settings for younger users after the Federal Trade Commission ordered several large social media and video streaming companies to reveal how they track user data.

Its ownership by Chinese company ByteDance also generated concerns in the US security apparatus. It's banned on government-issued devices by the US military, for example.


"We care deeply about building an experience that helps to protect and support the well-being of our community, and appreciate that the state attorneys general are focusing on the safety of younger users," the company said Wednesday, according to the AP. "We look forward to providing information on the many safety and privacy protections we have for teens."

In November, state AGs also announced an investigation into Facebook and Instagram – after a former employee leaked documents that showed the social media company knew its platform was harming younger users, though Facebook has said the reports don't present a the entire picture of its efforts to help young people on its sites.