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Is TikTok affecting children's focus?

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London, April 14 (IANS) Popular social media platform TikTok and other fast-paced video apps could be ruining the attention span of the youth and children with an “endless flow” of pleasure via short, 15 second, videos, warns an expert from Oxford University.

According to James Williams, an ethicist at Oxford, Chinese short-video making app TikTok is like a “candy store” full of “immediate pleasure”, Wall Street Journal reported.

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“It’s like we’ve made kids live in a candy store and then we tell them to ignore all that candy and eat a plate of vegetables,” Williams was quoted as saying.

“We have an endless flow of immediate pleasures that’s unprecedented in human history,” he added.

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Williams noted this could leave children struggling to focus on everyday tasks.

Prefrontal cortex is the area of the brain that helps humans control focus. While adults are able to fully use it, children cannot as the brain is still not fully developed until the age of 25.

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Scientists warn that if the brain becomes accustomed to ‘constant changes’ – like those in the digital world – it finds it difficult to stay focused, Daily Mail reported.

The short-video platform was also an instant success in India soon after it launched in September 2016. Though it was banned in the country in June 2020, over national security issues, several homegrown short-form video platforms hurriedly filled the vacuum. They now collectively attract over 240 million active monthly users.

To take on TikTok, Meta, formerly Facebook, had also launched Reels on Instagram. With Reels, one can record and edit 15-30 second multi-clip videos with audio, effects and new creative tools.

TikTok and others draw users by monitoring which videos they spend the longest watching, and then showing them more videos similar to these.

Studies show that when users watch these it activates centres of the brain involved in addiction, further making it harder to put down the app.

TikTok is the second most popular social media platform among children in the US, after YouTube, with around 60 per cent of those aged 12 to 15 using it weekly.

A TikTok spokeswoman told WSJ that the app had recently made changes to curb extensive use of the app, including blocking users under-15 from receiving notifications beyond 9 p.m. and sending them regular reminders to take a break, the report said.

–IANS

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