Researchers from the University of Queensland discovered that teenagers are being exposed to videos on the social media platform TikTok that portray cannabis usage as amusing and engaging rather than dangerous.
Brienna Rutherford, lead author and Ph.D. student at UQ’s National Centre for Youth Substance Use Research, said the study looked at 881 publicly available videos to assess how people viewed cannabis-related content.
«We discovered that 54 percent of videos had a good emotion and were viewed over 417 million times,» Ms. Rutherford added.
«Only 24 out of 881 videos (or 2.7 percent) warned viewers about the risks of high-frequency cannabis usage.
«This is concerning because we know that this exposure can impact an adolescent’s attitudes and perhaps lead to problematic cannabis usage, which can lead to mental health problems or cognitive impairment.»
«With over 1 million young Australians using TikTok, effective age restrictions or warning banners on publicly available videos depicting substance use are urgently needed.»
Dr. Gary Chan, one of the study’s co-authors, claimed there has been an increase in cannabis’ perceived cultural and societal acceptability.
«The number of pro-cannabis groups that have started to sprout up online has increased,» Dr. Chan stated.
«We discovered that the great majority of the videos reviewed in this study depicted cannabis usage as hilarious or entertaining.
«Around 42% of films had the artist addressing their own cannabis use experiences, and nearly a quarter supported the social and cultural acceptability of using it.»
Ms. Rutherford claimed that TikTok has lately taken steps to safeguard young people from harmful online conduct, such as eliminating hashtags overtly referring to substance abuse; yet, the videos remained publicly available.
«Cannabis is one of the most extensively used substances among young people worldwide,» she added, adding that it has been linked to an increased risk of depression and suicide among young adults.
«TikTok has over 1 billion monthly active users all over the world.»
«In the United States, a third of TikTok users are under the age of 14, with 63 percent of those aged 12 to 17 using the app on a daily basis.
«By improving regulation and monitoring, there is a great possibility to reduce the exposure of positive substance use messaging.»