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TikTok rolls out features to help teens’ mental health as Instagram comes under fire

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Rafael Henrique | LightRocket | Getty Images

TikTok on Tuesday announced a slew of features intended to help users struggling with mental health issues and thoughts of suicide.

These include well-being guides, a support guide for those struggling with eating disorders and a search intervention feature that will direct users to support resources when they look up phrases such as #suicide.

TikTok’s announcement of the new features followed a Tuesday Wall Street Journal report that said Facebook has repeatedly found that its Instagram app could be harmful to teenagers’ mental health, in certain situations.

The two apps are in tight competition for the teens’ attention. Since its 2017 launch, Chinese-owned TikTok has gained ground on Instagram, and last year surpassed it as U.S. teenagers’ second-favorite social media app, after Snapchat, according to an October 2020 report by Piper Sandler.

TikTok’s new features will direct users to support, such as a Crisis Text Line if they search for the term “suicide.”

Although TikTok’s new features may be timed to National Suicide Prevention Week, which was last week, the timing is fortuitous. Following the Journal’s report, U.S. lawmakers heavily criticized Facebook for social media’s impact on teen mental health and the company’s failure to address the problems.

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