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Pros: The familiar format of short-form social media video content makes vetted mental health content approachable for young teens.
Cons: Some videos are fun and thoughtful, while others are too didactic to hold interest. Limited real-world contact with peers can make the tool feel removed and static. Unclear vetting approach.
Bottom Line: A well-intentioned, vetted source of mental health content for and by teens.
Users can try the app's premium features for free for seven days. Sign up and take a spin through the challenges and premium content to see if they might appeal to you and your students. Talk to your school administrators and counseling staff about TeenToks to see if it's a good fit for your school community. If your junior high and high school students have iPhone and iPod Touch access, consider introducing students and their parents to the app as a supplement to social-emotional learning (SEL) education. Talk about the app's purpose as a source for vetted, approachable mental health content and encourage students to take a look at the videos and discuss what they see.
Ask your students: What surprised you about what you found on the app? What content was helpful? What kinds of videos are the most effective for addressing these tough topics? If you were to create videos like these, what would you make? Consider encouraging your students to create their own TeenToks videos for class, and have them cite the reliable sources they use for the information they include. Though students won't be able to upload the content to TeenToks, it can still be a valuable exercise to make videos and share them with each other.
TeenToks is an iOS app featuring content by teen creators on mental health topics including anxiety, self-worth, body image, and more. Created by the makers of kid's meditation app GoZen, this app's developers hire teenagers, train them on critical mental health topics, and compensate them for creating social media-ready videos geared toward educating and empowering other teens. For that reason, some of the content can feel a bit overly rehearsed, as if it were part of a workplace training series. It's also important to note that it's unclear exactly who is vetting the content and how.
Users can't upload their own content, which might feel limiting for students who are already used to mainstream social media. Students can complete multiday challenges where they view related content over the course of several days (including a Perfectionism Challenge and a Body Image Challenge) and log daily meditation time -- though they can watch only one video per challenge per day.
Users can add friends by their usernames or email addresses, and friends can see each other's meditation streaks, ideally so that friends can encourage each other to build mindfulness habits. Aside from seeing friends' streaks, there are no other outlets for connection or collaboration within the app. Note that anyone can search through usernames for accounts to add without needing to know the person.
Teachers should be aware that students under 13 are asked to hand the device to an adult to create an account, but those who are under 13 can simply click that they are over 13 to create an account without permission.
Just like on real TikTok, the quality of the videos varies between creators. A few clunky videos aside, most videos are appealing as they tackle tough topics by inviting teens to practice perspective taking, positive self-talk, and other healthy habits.
Overall, the intention behind TeenToks feels earnest, but it's missing a lot of the features that make social media appealing to teens, like connecting with friends, posting content, and seeing endless content on a multitude of subjects. Though it's nice that you can earn streaks for meditating and share those achievements with friends, those streaks are among the only things users can see on their connections' profiles. Outside of that, the only other interactive element is commenting on the vetted creators' videos. There aren’t many comments or likes on the videos at this time, which can make the app feel a bit static.
It seems unlikely that this app would get students to shift their habits from other social media platforms to this one since using TeenToks is a mostly passive experience. For some teens, that might not be a deal-breaker, and they might add this app to the rotation of sites where they spend time. And that wouldn't be a bad thing: If content like this could crowd out some of the more destructive and harmful videos teens see online, it could make a meaningful difference.