TikTok Ban Would Anger Most College Students: 6 Key Survey Findings
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It's no secret that TikTok is one of the most influential social media platforms for young people. According to Wallaroo Media, TikTok has about 80 million monthly active users in the United State, 60% between the ages of 16 and 24.
In a new BestColleges survey of 1,000 current undergraduate and graduate students, 82% of respondents report using TikTok and 67% say they use the app frequently or somewhat frequently. One-fifth of college students (20%) say they want to be a TikTok influencer.
We asked current college students about their TikTok habits, their mental health as a result of the app, and the ban threat. Here's what we found.
1. 6 in 10 students who use TikTok would feel angry about a nationwide ban
On March 15, the Biden administration threatened a nationwide ban on TikTok unless its Chinese owners sold their stake in the company, according to the Wall Street Journal.
About 8 in 10 college students (82%) said that they were aware of government proposals to ban TikTok prior to taking our survey.
Out of the students who report using TikTok, 59% of respondents — two-thirds of women (66%) and about half of men (48%) — say that they would be angry if the U.S. government went through with a nationwide ban.
LGBTQIA+ students (67%) are significantly more likely than straight students (56%) to say they'd be angry if TikTok gets banned.
Fifty-eight percent of college students who use TikTok say they are worried about their personal data being collected on the app. Thirty-eight percent report they aren't worried at all, and 4% are unsure.
The prospect of a nationwide ban isn't the only source of student TikTok woes. Since Dec. 8, universities in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Idaho, Mississippi, Montana, Oklahoma, and Texas have blocked TikTok from internet access to abide by state governors' orders.
Seven in ten college students (71%) say they are still permitted to use TikTok on their college's Wi-Fi network or internet. About 1 in 10 students (13%) are not allowed to use the app on their school's network, and 15% of respondents are not sure if they could or not.
Half of students who use TikTok (50%) report that they would feel angry if their schools banned the app. About a quarter (27%) say that they would not feel angry.
2. BIPOC, LGTBQIA+ students are more likely to say TikTok has helped them find their community
Many of the students we surveyed find a sense of community on TikTok — particularly students that belong to historically excluded groups.
Overall, just over one-third (34%) of college TikTok users say the app helped them find their community.
A significantly larger percentage (42%) of BIPOC students say TikTok has helped them find their community compared to white students (28%).
And a full half of LGBTQIA+ students (50%) who use TikTok shared that it helped them find their community compared to about a quarter of straight students (28%). This may help explain why more LGBTQIA+ students would be angry if TikTok were banned.
Out of the students who reported using the app, 38% of women and 25% of men use TikTok to find their community.
Forty percent of first-generation students who use TikTok believe that the app has helped them find their community compared to 30% of non-first-gen students.
3. 40% of college TikTokers use the app more than Google
Not all TikTokers are on the app for fame or influence. In addition to finding community on the app, well over half (56%) of students say that TikTok has given them valuable knowledge or skills.
Four in ten students (40%) who use TikTok — 36% of men and 44% of women — report using it more than Google, and about one-third (34%) of college TikTok users get most of their news and information from the app.
However, only 29% of college TikTok users trust the accounts that they follow on the app to deliver news and information accurately.
Millennial and Gen Z students were split on TikTok being the new Google. Only one-fifth of millennial students (20%) say they use TikTok more than Google, while 42% of Gen Z students say the same.
Millennial and Gen Z students were similarly split on using TikTok as their main source for news and information, with 23% of millennials and 36% of Gen Z students turning to the app.
4. Half (51%) of college TikTok users say they use the app too much
Despite using the app too much, only a quarter of college students who use TikTok (24%) believe that using the app negatively impacts their mental health.
In fact, out of those who report using TikTok, 61% agree that TikTok sparks joy for them. Only 13% say it does not.
More than 6 in 10 (63%) of Gen Z students who use TikTok report that the app sparks joy compared to less than half (49%) of millennial users.
Perhaps the ill effects of TikTok — on mental health or on national security — have been overstated. About 4 in 10 students who use TikTok (38%) say that TikTok is misunderstood or misrepresented by the media.
5. Almost half (48%) of college students report knowing someone who makes money off TikTok or other platforms
While students' social networks may be full of people making money off TikTok and other social media platforms, only 1 in 5 college TikTok users (20%) report that they want to be a TikTok influencer.
BIPOC students (27%) are more likely than white students (17%) to say they want to be a TikTok influencer.
Overall, 18% of college TikTok users report that the app is necessary for their career or intended career path. BIPOC students (25%) are almost twice as likely to say the app is necessary for their career or intended career compared to white students (14%).
6. College students' favorite categories are MusicTok, CookTok, and BeautyTok
Students are on very different "sides" of TikTok, but are mostly watching videos about music (36%), cooking (33%), and beauty (32%).
About half of women (53%) say that they are on BeautyTok, while more than 4 in 10 men (42%) are on MusicTok. The second most popular side of TikTok for women is SelfcareTok (44%), while for men FitTok takes second (31%).
Men (25%) and women (39%) are both watching CookTok videos.
BIPOC students (43%) are more likely than white students (31%) to spend time on MusicTok. They are also twice as likely to spend time on DanceTok than white students (26% vs. 11%).
QueerTok is the most popular side of TikTok for LGBTQIA+ students (46%). Only 3% of straight students are on QueerTok. LGBTQIA+ students are twice as likely (26%) to be on BookTok compared to straight students (13%).
This survey was conducted from March 6-13, 2023, and was fielded by Pure Spectrum. Survey participants included 1,000 respondents nationwide who were currently enrolled in an on-campus, online, or hybrid undergraduate or graduate degree program. Respondents were 16-61 years of age, with the majority (94%) ages 16-32, and currently pursuing an associate, bachelor's, master's, doctoral, or professional degree. The respondents for the survey were screened by various quality checks, including systems like Relevant ID, and responses were manually reviewed to ensure consistency and accuracy.