EDITORIAL: TikTok bans start necessary conversation

The urgency to ban TikTok on college campus networks highlights the Texas government’s ignorance of another issue: mental health.

The presumed threat to national security by the Chinese government’s data audits is a valid concern, but we wish government officials showed the same regard for the developing minds of the nation’s youth.

The campus network ban of TikTok could be seen as a risk to freedom of speech, which is not something we support.

However, at least it allows us to talk about the very real and confirmed issues social media can have.

According to a 2019 article published by American Psychological Association, mental health issues in adolescents, specifically those born in 1995 or later, have increased significantly since the mid-2000s.

“Individuals who spend more time on social media and less time with others face-to-face report lower well-being and are more likely to be depressed,” the report reads. “Likewise, both general Internet use and involvement in cyber-bullying (as victim or perpetrator) have been associated with depression, self-harm, and suicidal thoughts and behaviors.”

The same increase in mental health issues was not found in older adults.

This TikTok ban brings up the conversation about social media, but we need to address the other related issues.

Media literacy and thoughtful scrolling should be taught before smartphones are given to children and teens.

Frequent breaks from social media can lower levels of anxiety, depression, loneliness and sleep problems, according to a 2018 University of Philadelphia report.

During the study on which the report is based, 143 undergraduates were randomly assigned to limit certain social media platforms for three weeks.

This group showed significant decreases in mental health distress compared to the control group.

Unfortunately, it took an app’s ability to circumvent U.S. privacy laws to put social media use on the forefront of the government’s agenda. But why has the issue of social media fallen through the cracks for so long?

Texas ranks last in the nation in mental health care access, according to NPR.

Something should be done about the staggering presence of digital media in the lives of students, but what is done needs to prioritize mental health.