Why parents are concerned about AI-generated influencers on TikTok

Thousands of parents have signed an online petition urging TikTok to clearly label influencer accounts that are generated by artificial intelligence, claiming the unrealistic beauty standards these accounts promote are detrimental to the app’s most vulnerable users. 

“Research has already shown that TikTok is a potential minefield for kids and teens, your most vulnerable users, struggling with body image, self-esteem, disordered eating and other unhealthy behaviors,” the petition, addressed to TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew, stated. “AI influencer accounts contribute to this dangerous culture by bombarding kids with beauty standards only a computer could meet.”  

The petition is sponsored by ParentsTogether, a nonprofit that independently reports and comments on issues affecting kids and families.               

The concerned parents said TikTok relies on users to label themselves as AI-generated, but most accounts do not. 

The group also said the sophistication of AI technology today is making it harder for casual users, especially children, to distinguish what is real and what is fake. 

TikTok has repeatedly come under scrutiny for the way it handles and affects users under 18. 

A 2022 report created by the Center for Countering Digital Hate said TikTok exposed young, vulnerable users to harmful content that promotes eating disorders and self-harm.

A more recent report from the center highlighted TikTok videos promoting and glorifying steroids and other performance-enhancement products. 

TikTok responded to the criticism with new restrictions, screen time limits and increased parental controls for teens and children. 

To counteract the negative impacts of social media on body image and self-esteem, the Boys and Girls Club of America said teens should limit their time on social media and practice healthy mantras and self-affirmation.