Editor’s note: The following commentary was submitted by Prevent Child Abuse Vermont (PCAVT), the Vermont Chapter of Prevent Child Abuse America and the National Circle of Parents, whose mission is to promote and support healthy relationships within families, schools and communities to eliminate child abuse. Visit pcavt.org
The child advocates from Prevent Child Abuse Vermont (PCAVT) applaud the recent announcement by Attorney General T.J. Donovan of a joint investigation into TikTok and the harm the use of their social media platforms pose for Vermont’s children and young adults.
Both before and during the pandemic, PCAVT has been working to bring awareness to the dangers inherent in social media platforms that are increasingly used by youth as young as 6 years old. TikTok, and other social media, are being used by adults with an inappropriate sexual interest in children to establish contact with them, to develop relationships, and to groom potential victims for sexual abuse.
PCAVT Executive Director Linda Johnson shares Donovan’s concern about TikTok targeting young Vermonters and possibly being complicit in child exploitation, grooming and human trafficking. “We stand with the attorney general’s investigation to protect kids from virtual platforms that make it easier for predators to contact our children,” said Johnson. “This investigation is critically important, as under the shadow of Covid-19, predators capitalized on the vulnerability of children, who are developmentally ill-equipped to keep themselves safe online.”
The investigation will help the attorney general from Vermont, along with a number of other states, better understand the techniques TikTok uses to target young user engagement and the computer-driven promotion of content that potentially endangers the physical and mental health of young users. This investigation will also look into alleged violations in which TikTok may be complicit in condoning predatory behaviors that go after Vermont youth and young adults.