Despite security concerns on the part of schools, students still lean on TikTok

Help with academics, keeping up with student activity and establishing supporting communities are a few reasons students continue using the popular app despite state bans.

Regardless of pressure from at least 19 state governors banning TikTok use on public university campuses for school cybersecurity, the majority of college students are thinking the same thing: “lol, no.”

Schools and state lawmakers are concerned about how fraught with data security issues the Chinese-owned parent company is, posing a risk to national security. But the app seems to have enveloped the lives of too many students for them to so easily let it go.

A recent report that surveyed 1,000 undergraduate students found that more than half of them use it to help with academic work, and of that group, 58% prefer it over search engines like Google and Bing.

Even if they can’t use the app in class, respondents said they learn on TikTok somewhat (38%), as much as (15%) or more than in their classes—that’s more than half of all respondents professing they’re more interested in the educational value of TikTok than their established curriculum.

“I think the biggest appeal is simply that TikTok is staying relevant to the learning needs of students,” explains Blanca Villagomez, a college admissions and education advisor at UC Irvine. “Gen Zers have embraced technology from a very early age and have an appetite for information that is simplified in a fun and engaging way.”

The recent shooting at Michigan State University, however, proved that TikTok was more than just an academic resource and entertainment tool. As of Feb. 16, #SpartanStrong had over 24 million views, according to BuzzFeed News. Students used the hashtag to create content processing their grief and developing trauma.

More from UB: More education leaders ban TikTok for students and employees

One user’s post generated over 3 million views and nearly half a million “likes” with comments of support and collective mourning flooding in.

“As a student, this was one of the most traumatic things I have ever experienced,” one user commented. Another wrote, “I wish this didn’t happen and I wish we didn’t have to be afraid to be at school.”

Students also cite the detrimental effects it would have on their social media presence.

“Even if the university restricts access to the app, I am sure there are students on campus that will easily be able to find ways to still access the app,” said one UF student. “I think the university should focus its energy on a more important area.”

TikTok has about 80 million monthly active users in the United States, 60% of whom are 16 and 24, according to digital marketing agency Wallaroo Media.

Alcino Donadel
Alcino Donadel
Alcino Donadel is a UB staff writer and Florida Gator alumnus. A graduate in journalism and communications, his beats have ranged from Gainesville's city development, music scene, and regional little league sports divisions. He has triple citizenship from the U.S., Ecuador, and Brazil.

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