Influencer and TikTok Culture is Harming our Kids

This post mentions suicide. If you need help, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255

There is a pandemic afoot, and it has nothing to do with a Covid-19 variant.

Influencer culture.

The toxically perfect, airbrushed existence of Instagram models that portray their fabulous lives for the world to lust over — in more ways than one — as they make you covet their fashionable outfits, expensive lifestyle, and other goods or services you want, but typically can’t afford.

There is a staggering spike in mental health issues among young people. Sure, the #pandemic played a role, but it’s Influencer and TikTok culture that is really harming our kids. Here’s why. #tiktok #instagram #metalhealth #socialmedia #catholic #anorexia #recovery #parenting #family

We, as adults, at least know we’re being sold to. We know that some brand is paying these gorgeous, too-thin girls heaps of money, and enticing them with free clothing and free trips all to post to their millions of followers, in the hopes that some young woman from Kansas will drain her bank account to purchase the designer hand bag or shoes the model is hacking.

And if I sound a bit…harsh or bitter, as I’m describing it, it’s because I am. Influencer culture makes me really angry.

Really angry.

Because it’s killing our kids.

The pandemic has been astronomically difficult on our kids. They were isolated from their friends, kept away from school, locked in their homes, and therefore spent hours upon hours on social media. Scrolling through images and depictions of perfect lives, airbrushed bodies, and photoshopped smiles. Images that make a young girl doubt her own beauty, as compared with manipulated images, and snapshots of feigned experiences that make her unhappy with her life.

There is a staggering spike in mental health issues among young people. Sure, the #pandemic played a role, but it’s Influencer and TikTok culture that is really harming our kids. Here’s why. #tiktok #instagram #metalhealth #socialmedia #catholic #anorexia #recovery #parenting #family

Kids internalize that more than we know. During the pandemic, the rate of suicide attempts among teen girls rose a staggering 51%. That figure is absolutely crushing. And it makes me want to shake the shoulders of the internet and scream, “Look at the damage you’re doing!”

Because what we don’t see from the perfectly planned and color coordinated Instagram grids of these influencers, is the darkness that many of them feel: the pressure to be thin and fit into the designer clothes sent to them, in sizes meant for non-menstruating preteens. The pressure to have picture-perfect abdominal muscles, the pressure to maintain a “follower base” or hit a certain “like-quota” on a photo. Can you imagine if your life and perceived self-worth hinged upon that? What happens when life is no longer to be lived, but to be captured? Seems incredibly lonely to me.

To appear to have it all, from the outside…yet internally always be questioning your worth and striving to maintain an unnaturally thin body, and wrinkle-free face?

We can see past the facade. But kids can’t.

They just see a life that they want, and can’t have.

And then, you add to that, TikTok.

There is a staggering spike in mental health issues among young people. Sure, the #pandemic played a role, but it’s Influencer and TikTok culture that is really harming our kids. Here’s why. #tiktok #instagram #metalhealth #socialmedia #catholic #anorexia #recovery #parenting #family

I have been very, very against TikTok. The way it hyper-sexualizes young girls with viral sexy dances and promotes this sickeningly self-focused existance. It honestly makes me want to throw up. The filters, the self-obsession, the preoccupation with “me, me, me.” I just…yikes.

But there’s another aspect of TikTok that is hidden and even more harmful that that. And that is how it has trivialized mental illness, and dare I say, made it “fashionable” to have a “mental health issue.” TikTokers speak so flippantly about their mental diagnoses that “therapists and doctors warn there has been a sharp increase of teens self-diagnosing mental health disorders from ADHD to depression and Tourette Syndrome on the app.” (NBC12) It’s the copycat or horoscope syndrome, where you see something enough times that you start to believe you have it too. A self-fulfilling prophecy, driven by people making their mental illness diagnosis “relatable” or even, “cool.” Using it to set them apart, make them special or “quirky”, and have it be the defining quality about who they are: “their brand.”

There is a staggering spike in mental health issues among young people. Sure, the #pandemic played a role, but it’s Influencer and TikTok culture that is really harming our kids. Here’s why. #tiktok #instagram #metalhealth #socialmedia #catholic #anorexia #recovery #parenting #family

And this infuriates me, too, and is the main reason why I have resisted joining TikTok for so long. You’ve got all these young people on the app, making light and joking about their mental illness. Making “viral” or “catchy” videos about a serious diagnosis that people all over the world suffer with, just to gain views, popularity and notoriety.

I mean, sure — I could go on there and make a snappy video about anorexia, and say…”Haha — just ate the skin of an apple for lunch…ANOREXIA MADE ME DO IT! HAHAHAHA” Those are the types of videos that are out there. Or “Tell me you’re anorexic without telling me you’re anorexic: (and then a video of the creator just drinking tea and munching on celery for dinner.)”

Girls DIE from anorexia.

How about you show that video to the mother of one of my readers who passed away from anorexia several years ago, and ask her what she thinks of those videos? Ask her how she feels about people making light of grave mental illnesses that claim the life of so many.

And as an anorexia survivor myself, it makes me absolutely livid to see mental health made light of in such a shallow, frivolous, and superficial way. And all for viewership gain.

Again, kids see that. They absorb it. Looking for anything to make them feel not so alone — even if that means self-diagnosing yourself with a mental illness they don’t have.

This is the last thing.

All of this came to a head earlier this week, when news broke that the former Miss USA, Chelsie Kryst, jumped to her death from a luxury NYC apartment building. Tragic, heartbreaking news that not only left the world heartsick, but also shocked. As she was one of these influencers who, from the outside, appeared to have it all. She was beautiful, a former beauty queen, working as a news correspondent at Extra, multiple degrees. She had it all, and yet inside she was hurting. Deeply.

Scroll through her Instagram profile, you don’t see that. You don’t see that pain. You see a beautiful woman, healthy, young, thriving, with gorgeous makeup and an exciting career.

There is a staggering spike in mental health issues among young people. Sure, the #pandemic played a role, but it’s Influencer and TikTok culture that is really harming our kids. Here’s why. #tiktok #instagram #metalhealth #socialmedia #catholic #anorexia #recovery #parenting #family

Instagram is but a glimpse into the part of life people want you to see. It is their exhibition of what society demands. I’m guilty of it. I’m sure you are too.

We don’t post the hard moments when we’re down, or hurting, or feeling defeated. But instead, the highlights. The mountain top moments. Which, there’s nothing wrong with, on its face.

But when it’s distorted to advertise, to make money, to influence — that’s when it becomes a threat, preying on our young girls, who can’t see the manipulation at play.

And please hear me, I’m not saying this beautiful young woman was doing that. But her tragic death illuminates that what we see is not always the whole story.

As to the solution here, it’s really a losing battle. Instagram influencer marketing isn’t going away anytime soon. We can’t “halt” the Internet freight train that will soon become so embedded in our daily lives that it’ll be in contact lenses in our eyes.

But what we can do is model in our real lives true beauty to our young girls. Remind them that one’s worth comes from inside. That it comes from being created by God, as a daughter of the King. Reminding her that “likes” on a photo have no reflection on how much that person matters. What matters, is that we are kind. Loving to others. Honest. Patient. Curious. And that we love God and all His creations.

That is what matters.

There is a staggering spike in mental health issues among young people. Sure, the #pandemic played a role, but it’s Influencer and TikTok culture that is really harming our kids. Here’s why. #tiktok #instagram #metalhealth #socialmedia #catholic #anorexia #recovery #parenting #family

And that is why I will continue to post the good, the bad, and the vulnerably ugly on this blog. To remind everyone that there is beauty in the mess.

There is a staggering spike in mental health issues among young people. Sure, the #pandemic played a role, but it’s Influencer and TikTok culture that is really harming our kids. Here’s why. #tiktok #instagram #metalhealth #socialmedia #catholic #anorexia #recovery #parenting #family

To hear my story, click here.

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77 responses to “Influencer and TikTok Culture is Harming our Kids”

  1. Amen! This is such a relevant message for today….a lot of social media today is all about glossing your life over to be like everyone else, however we aren’t made to be like everyone else God made each of us different and for his specific purpose! We were made to be individuals who are all worthy of love!

    • Thank you so much. I fully agree. We were each created differently and for a reason! I love what you said here. thank you friend! Hugs and love xox

  2. Wow, this is so powerful, Caralyn, thank you for telling it like it is. I find Tik Tok so disgusting and don’t see the attraction but then I’m decades from being a kid. I hope that these girls will find your blog and read it! I enjoy Instagram but avoid accounts that advocate the crap you point out. Stay safe, God bless you. 🙏🏻❤️

    • Hi John, thank you so much for your kind words and thoughts on this matter. You’re right – it’s hard to see the appeal, but kids — and adults — are drinking it up like water in the desert. That’s kind of you to say, I hope so too! Me too – I only follow my family and friends! (Okay, and Justin Bieber … haha ) glad you stopped by! Hugs and love xox

  3. Sad truth. There are many people who seek to destroy the future for the children. I find that more kids have no interests. When I went to school, my school did away with extra things like art and music. We are also condemned all the time. Sadly many parents are destroying their kid’s interests. Then they shame them by saying that they are not like so-and-so. Thank you for being a positive role model.

    • Thanks JB – sadly you’re right. We need to get kids outside and back to life as normal where they can play with their friends without being in fear! I pray that all this covid craziness comes to a swift end and we can start living again! so glad you stopped by. Hugs and love xox

  4. Research TikTok – it is funded by the Chinese Communist Party.

    Along with Facebook (now called Meta), Twitter, Telegram, and a host of other social media platforms, they all have one thing in common: They involve our kids completely, hook, line, and sinker. The “challenges” that come across those platforms are not only stupid and harmful (many of them) but they are totally irresponsible from platforms who ban and censor legitimate posts.

    I agree that Ms. Kryst did not intentionally target young women, but the people who managed her affairs apparently did, without one bit of remorse. Like this life, fame and fortune are but for a moment; many decisions we make have the consequence of Eternity in them.

    • Hi Myron, thank you for sharing your thoughts on this. You’re right — they were designed to be addictive, and boy have they succeeded. I completely agree. Very true. Thanks again for stopping by. have a great night my friend. Hugs and love xox

  5. Great post! To see how “influencing” works I recommend a video (safe) on You Tube called “Influencing the Influencers / Magic for Humans”. It shows how the brainwashing works and they do it to three influencers. As you say, this is dangerous for kids and teens, even some adults.

    • Thank you friend. I will have to check that video out!! Sounds absolutely enthralling. dangerous for sure. Hugs and love xox

  6. I refuse to get a TikTok account. I used to have a IG account (still do) but I haven’t posted since 2019. No amount of curating, muting, and unfollowing people helped control what was on the feed. I think the feed is the most harmful of all because we really have no control over what others post and these platforms have tricked us into thinking we have control over what we see – another reason why I think people can’t stop using these platforms.

    If there was a way to eradicate the homepage/scrolling, I don’t think it would be so bad. But as far as I know, only FB has this feature (desktop only). Back in the day, it was magazines that were promoting these lifestyles. I definitely agree that these platforms aren’t suitable for younger audiences.

    • Hi Hilary, thank you for sharing your thoughts on this. You’re right- we have no control over what pops up when we open the app. That is so dangerous, especially for kids! agreed! Hugs and love xox

  7. Agreed. It’s up to parents to keep this garbage away from their kids as long as they can. Hopefully with a firm set of values and self-confidence, young folks will be better able to resist the “influence” later on when they’re inevitably exposed to it. It’s sad that people’s lives revolve around trying to mimic photoshopped celebs…

    • You’re right about that, Paula! I can’t imagine being a parent these days, and the responsibility of bringing up the next generation in this crazy world of ours! amen to that. Hugs and love xox

  8. I can’t comment on Tok-tok because it’s been banned in India. But when it was around, it was not the young and skinny who took to it. It was people from extremely humble backgrounds, and some of them made decent money. So, when our government banned it, because of our border conflict with China, thousands of people lost a source of income.

    On influencers, I agree entirely. They are a waste of time and project something completely fake.

    • Hi Rajiv. thank you for sharing your thoughts on this. I had no idea it was banned in India! That’s wild. And sad, I’m sorry to hear about that loss of an income source for people. amen. Hugs and love xox

  9. Yes, I am so against social media, especially TikTok. I just don’t get the appeal. As a high school English teacher, I find it so incredibly frustrating how kids are literally glued to their cell phones all day. I can’t get them to put their phones away during class, and at the end of the day, it’s toxic for their own mental health. I’m so tired of schools talking about “socioemotional learning” and “mental health” without addressing the problem with social media and phone addiction.

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this. Hope you are doing well 🙂

    – Katie

    • Thank you Katie for sharing your thoughts on this! oh wow – i’m sure as a teacher, you really see first hand the addiction to technology and social media among our young people. i don’t know how you do it! it must be extremely difficult to peel them away for a 50 minute class!! Praying for you! The world needs great teachers like you! Hugs and love xox

  10. Chelsie kryst death sort of got to me because I actually follow her on Pinterest and her blog ( Her style was such a huge inspiration for me being a lawyer too). And when I saw the news- I kept wondering what happend to her?

    Social media has blurred the lines for what’s real and what’s fake for the emotionally immature ones. Teaching life contentment, being conscious about your belief and what you choose to stand for is a big lesson in our time.

    • Hi Lade, gosh, I’m so sorry to hear how personally devastating the news was for you. Yeah, it is so sad – she really made an impact on the world. My heart and prayers are with her family and loved ones. You’re right about that. so true. Hugs and love xox

  11. Oh no.. not Helen Owen.. Love her.. I get it though.. You said it correctly.. However there is another side to this. The trouble with this kind of culture is that we don’t see the hard work these people put into their profiles to get them to the point where they are. We only see the results. We don’t see the whole picture and I believe that job lies with parents.

    • You’re so right about that – they do work hard. It’s not all mimosas and flowy dresses in perfect lighting. (And I’m not being sarcastic, I’m being sincere.) It is a difficult job, and i’m sure the pressure is heavy — to stay “liked,” relavent, thin, current with the times etc. And I fully agree too — it lies with the parents. A nd to be honest, I don’t really follow Helen Owen – i just know she and I wore the same ski suit this year! HAHA!! One of my friends told me that, and when I looked her up, she was like the picture perfect IG model. So my apologies for including her in this. It was merely for the beautiful aesthetic she curates on her page!! 🙂 Hugs and love xox

  12. It’s terrible and it’s a symptom of a bigger problem; The adults who are pushing existential philosophy and atheism . These kids have no faith and no hope ! Thank you for telling the truth . So sad .

    • I think you’re so right about that, PK. A bigger problem. There’s no talk of faith anywhere anymore. It makes me so sad. It’s up to parents to instill that in the next generation! Hugs and love xox

  13. Technology is neutral. It is how humans use it that can be good or bad. Only spiritual values or good moral values can help a person discern what is good or bad. But it is hard to resist the world’s temptations. Don’t go there, if we know better, then we won’t be influenced or affected.

    • Thank you Jeanne for this powerful thought. You’re right – it’s all in how we use it. And that’s very true – resisting the shiny and alluring worldly temptations is surely difficult. Hugs and love xox

  14. Though the Instagram world is like a parallel universe for me I did wonder if you would comment on the sad story of this young lady’s death. What a tragedy. Thank you for all you do sharing both reality and the hope of Jesus that alone makes us good enough. God bless

    • Hi Pete, thank you so much for sharing your thoughts about this. Yeah, her death was such a tragedy. And it’s practically right next door to where my boyfriend lives, so I knew exactly the building when the news broke. It’s just so heartbreaking and sad to think of such a beautiful life cut so unnecessarily short. My heart and prayers are with her family and loved ones as they try and put the pieces together. And you’re right – Jesus is our hope. Always and forever. Hugs and love xox

  15. Social Media has certainly taken things to the next level. A lot of this started with a shaving commercial on TV – Take It Off, Take It All Off were the lines of a sexy model at least 50 years ago. That one commercial led to thousands of sexy commercials with size 0 women. It’s only been in recent years that companies have created commercials with models of all sizes and shapes. And please don’t get me started with drug companies. They have tons of commercials hawking drugs the average viewer can’t even buy – they have to be prescribed by a doctor. Why? Because the drug company is talking you into the disease and your only relief is their product.The commercials even say – ask your doctor about taking our product. Who goes to the doctor with a list of drugs from TV to see if they should take those drugs? Really. Marketing and Influencing have become a sad state of affairs. There are so many things I would have told my younger self, that no one told me, about how everyone has different gifts and beauties and how to find yours and go with them. And not let anyone make you think otherwise.

    • Oh wow – what a fascinating fact! I had no idea that commercial was the beginning of “the end!” fascinating. And you’re right – influencing is seen in every fascet of life these days. Great thoughts. thanks so much for stopping by. Hugs and love xox

  16. Keep on blogging, dear one, but per your own blog, it is in the family, in the close relationships in churches and clubs that the message will really get across: We are created in God’s image and until we find Him to fill that God-shaped vacuum inside, people, young and old, will try anything to “feel good” while rotting from the inside out. But keep on blogging in hopes that someone WILL get the message from the beacon you place here!
    ❤️&🙏, c.a.

    • thank you friend! and you’re right about that — it is our close circles where we can have the greatest impact with His hope and love! Yes – that is my prayer! Thanks so much for always being an amazing source of positivity!! 🙂 Hugs and love xox

  17. Thank you Caralyn for once again highlighting devilish forces like those embedded in social media.
    While internet and media can be positive, the obsessions with self and fleshly standards need be exposed and nullified.
    “…promotes this sickeningly self-focused existance” exactamundo. It comes against every godly virtue.
    Press on sister, may the Lord continue to stir your heart and inspire you.

    • Hi Lisa Beth! Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts on this. You’re so right – the enemy knows how to twist what is not a bad thing (the internet, staying connected through technology) into something harmful for our souls. Amen to that. glad you stopped by! Hugs and love xox

  18. I could not agree with you more. I’ve been saying for years that social media is going to be the downfall of our society, for so many different reasons, and TikTok is the worst of them all. I literally just told my husband this morning that our kids won’t be allowed to have social media accounts until they’re 18. Pre-teens and younger teenagers just aren’t mentally or emotionally able to handle what the internet has become. It’s incredibly damaging.

    • Thank you so much Krista! I’m so glad this resonated with you. I’m afraid you may be right about that. And yes – it is absolutely the worst of them all. And I’m afraid it is only the beginning. many of my friends work at big NYC marketing companies, and all the “big guns” are just pouring cash into TikTok marketing. Unthinkable ammounts of cash into TikTok. Why? Because that’s where the eyes are. Oh it is scary indeed. Scary. Haha – I am right there with ya – 18!!! you’re so right – social media is no place for a youngster trying to find their place in the world! Hugs and love xox

  19. Well said, Caralyn. I’m so glad you took this topic on. Such pain and heartache being spread around in the name of influencing. We need to flood TikTok and all social media with true normalcy, true beauty. Have our kids take and post real photos of their real activities, showing them having FUN in real life, showing off the fashion trends they can and actually do wear, teen makeup (fresh and light), etc. Hashtag it #myREALlife. Start a new trend. We are at a point where we HAVE to do something. Being still is no longer an option. Start us off, Caralyn! Love and blessings to you, sweet friend 💗

    • You are so right. Its about time we jumped into the fray — for positive change, sanity to be restored, for young people to see healthier options to live life.
      It will be a movement for positive change and healthy mindsets.

    • Thank you so much Mindy – I’m so glad this resonated with you. I’ve really debated talking about this, as people really LOVE their social media. But you’re right – there’s a lot of pain out there with social media as the source. Amen – TRUE beauty and TRUE normalcy. That’s what I’d love LOVE love to see. And you’re right – we’ve reached a breaking point for sure. Love and blessings to you as well! so glad you stopped by! Hugs and love xox

  20. Young girls are much more harmed by social media influence and we see it with more girls questioning their overall identity even (sexual orientation and even their sex/gender). Thank you for raising this point, especially myself having a toddler daughter facing a difficult world and culture ahead of her.

    • You hit the nail right on the head. It is so sad to see how detrimental social media is to girls and their development. All I know is, thank goodness it wasn’t a thing when I was a teen. Yikes. I will be praying for your daughter!! Sounds like she’ll have a great foundation at home to set her on the right path! 🙂 Hugs and love xox

  21. Social media and influencer culture- It’s such a slippery slope and so hard to navigate and I was thinking “the same kind of thing was at play when we were kids with magazines but now- it’s just always in their faces.” I’m a mom trying to figure out how to teach my kids to handle that and it is no easy task. Anyway- thanks for talking about it!

    • Thank you so much, friend, for sharing your thoughts on this. You’re right – it is a slippery slope indeed! And you’re right – before, you had to have a parent buy that magazine. It wasn’t just around. now it’s just right in their pocket. scary. And I’ve gotta say – your kids are lucky to have you as a mom!! 🙂 Hang in there! praying for you! Hugs and love xox

  22. It perhaps is the absence of the Living God more than the presence of influencers that is at the root of the rot. If the kids had their identity in Christ well established, they wouldn’t have wallowed in the wind so easily. But America had lost its compass centuries ago, with its occult worship and treaties in high places. A fish stinks from its head down. When the adults return to the Living God, the kids will follow. But Americans zealously worship their version of the Bible but not the God in it. Fix that, then the kids will be safe.

    • Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts on this. I so agree — I can see that “God hole” so clearly in this up and coming generation — because I had it too! And I tried to fill it with so many destructive things. Christ is the one and only answer. And I pray for all those kids that are addicted to social media and are feeling “less than” and “not enough” than what they see on their screens. They ARE and then some! Amen – we’ve got to get our compass back! Hugs and love xox

  23. It’s a scary thing to see what our young people face.

    I know the Lord is abundantly enough, Lord help us to tell of Your wonders by how we live our lives! Thank You for Your work in Carolyn! Bless and continue to bless and keep her! May we all do our part to lead others to You! To make ourselves available to You to shine through! In Jesus’ Name Amen.

    • You’re so right about that – we need to get back to our roots in God! May He fill the hearts of all those who look at social media and feel “less than” or “not enough.” And thank you for your kind words and prayers. it means the world. Hugs and love xox

  24. We have to be more proactive about changing what we don’t like.
    You could get onto Tik Tok to oppose and confront the negativity.
    This way you’re giving young girls something else to think about.
    An alternative opinion.
    The influenced will be hesitant to blindly follow the influencers.
    The Bible says, the older women should teach the younger women.
    At this point, we can’t wait for them to find us where we are, to get some of our GOD-given wisdom.
    We have to take our teachings to them where they are.
    It’s how the Gospel is supposed to be — go ye into the world and preach the gospel.

    The Bible says, wisdom goes about crying for people to listen.

    It would be tough. You could be dragged and cancelled. So we have to be ready for a typical online argument. But it’s important to put the wisdom where those negatively influenced will see it.
    I remember when Monique, an Oscar award winning actress and comedian, was dragged online for saying young women should stop wearing hair bonnets outdoors.
    She stood her ground, explained herself and refused to back down or be intimidated.
    As women, we have work to do in fortifying ourselves psychologically and spiritually, to talk teens and younger adults, out of destructive influences.
    The Lord is our strength.

    • Hi friend. Wow, this is a really compelling response. Thank you. You have given me something to really think and pray about: about going into the “lions den” if you will, and meeting girls where they’re at with an alternate option. You know, I’ve often thought that the girls who are so entrenched in their phones on TikTok are the exact age group of people who need to hear about body image, and self love, God’s love. That was the age I developed my anorexia, and gosh – they certainly need an alternative voice. Hmm. I’m going to take this to prayer. thank you friend. Hugs and love xox

    • thank you so much for sharing your thoughts on this, JP. You’re right – THEY are the product being sold. it is quite scary. And that algorithm…that’s scary too!!! Hugs and love xox

  25. I agree wearing the mask and what is being post on social media can be harming our children’s mental health. Sometimes I have to take a step back when I am seeing things to rest.

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