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States Investigate TikTok's Effect on Children

A bipartisan group of state attorneys general is looking at whether TikTok operates in a way that possibly "exacerbates physical and mental health harms."

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Corinne Reichert Senior Editor
Corinne Reichert (she/her) grew up in Sydney, Australia and moved to California in 2019. She holds degrees in law and communications, and currently writes news, analysis and features for CNET across the topics of electric vehicles, broadband networks, mobile devices, big tech, artificial intelligence, home technology and entertainment. In her spare time, she watches soccer games and F1 races, and goes to Disneyland as often as possible.
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Corinne Reichert
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TikTok is popular with teens and children.

Sarah Tew/CNET

TikTok is being investigated by a nationwide group of state attorneys general for its potentially harmful impact on children.  

The investigation is looking at "whether TikTok is designing, operating and promoting its social media platform to children, teens and young adults in a manner that causes or exacerbates physical and mental health harms," according to a Wednesday press release from Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey. 

The attorneys general will look at whether TikTok violated consumer protection laws and put the public at risk including by using "methods and techniques ... to boost young user engagement, including increasing the duration of time spent on the platform and frequency of engagement with the platform."

Healey is leading the bipartisan investigation alongside the attorneys general from California, Florida, New Jersey, Kentucky, Nebraska, Tennessee and Vermont.

"As children and teens already grapple with issues of anxiety, social pressure and depression, we cannot allow social media to further harm their physical health and mental well being," Healey said in the statement. "State attorneys general have an imperative to protect young people and seek more information about how companies like TikTok are influencing their daily lives."

TikTok said it looks forward to providing the state attorneys general with its privacy and safety protections for teen users.

"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," a TikTok spokesperson told CNET in an emailed statement.

Instagram is similarly facing an investigation by a group of state attorneys general of its potentially harmful impact on teens and has been urged by religious leaders to abandon plans to launch a kids' version of Instagram after Meta paused the project in September of 2021.