According to the New York City government website news, Mayor Adams of New York City announced in his Jan. 24 State of the City address that social media platforms such as TikTok, YouTube, and Facebook are growing “public health hazards” due to their “addictive and dangerous features.” The move aims to protect young people from online harm, emphasizing that social media companies should be accountable for harmful content on their platforms.
Based on the recommendations of Health Commissioner Dr. Vasquez, Mayor Adams pointed out that social platforms like TikTok, YouTube, and Facebook intentionally design features with addiction risks, exacerbating the mental health crisis among teenagers. New York City becomes the first major city in the United States to officially define social media as a public health hazard, putting it on par with tobacco and firearms, and demanding that tech companies take more responsibility.
The Health Department advises parents not to allow children under 14 to use smartphones or social media. The city government urges the federal and state governments to pass legislative proposals to protect the next generation from the “predatory behavior” of social media companies.
According to a study in New York City, the mental health of teenagers has been declining for over a decade, with 77 percent of high school students spending more than three hours per day on screens, excluding homework, from Monday to Friday. The government states that this move is part of a strategic approach to identify root causes and make changes upstream to achieve better outcomes.
Additionally, the city government emphasizes the importance of reading education for students, announcing the launch of the New York City Reading Program to improve students’ reading levels. The mayor emphasizes the significance of both academic preparedness and mental health, calling for collective efforts to protect students from the harm of online activities.
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TikTok is not only considered harmful due to addiction but also raises concerns about online security given the company’s ties to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). As of August 17, 2023, the New York City government announced a ban on the use of the overseas version of TikTok on government devices within 30 days, citing “cybersecurity risks” associated with the social media platform.
City government spokesperson Jonah Allon stated in a statement that the NYC Cyber Command confirmed TikTok’s application posed a security threat to the city government’s technical network and requested its removal from government-owned devices. The federal government also passed a law in December 2022, prohibiting the use of TikTok on government devices, and New York City’s directive aims to align with federal policy.
Some policymakers even hope to expand the scope of the ban, prohibiting anyone from using TikTok on government devices, including personal phones. Critics argue that TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, is subject to the Chinese government and could be used for monitoring government employees, not to mention the surveillance of the entire population. The company itself admitted that several employees attempted to access user data for two specific U.S. journalists.
Mayor Adams has consistently criticized the app for fostering criminal behavior and exacerbating social ills. In a statement in May 2023, he likened Tiktok to a time bomb, saying that it could spread dangerous and illicit behavior among its millions of viewers, particularly youth.