TikTok In Schools
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A NEW trend on TikTok has emerged whereby teachers, sometimes principals, of high schools are joining their students in concert-like settings to Jamaican dancehall music playing in the background. The trend is harmless for the most part, but it’s easy to see how some might conceive it as “loose” behaviour on the part of teachers who support students in harmless TikTok trends.

We risk losing our children if we fail to effectively communicate with them in a language known to them. Generational differences aren’t as simple as some make it out to be. We think of baby boomers, millennials, GenZ and the like as having very specific personalities shaped by their experiences in time. But the difference in time between these groups, especially for millennials and GenZ, could be as narrow as two years. Added to that, that difference is also shaped by how different groups use social media.

A person at age 25 and a person at age 27 could be quite different not only because of their social and economic backgrounds, but also because there are certain cultures towards which they gravitate that are more accepted within one generation as opposed to another. In that, the older generation might view a cultural practice as “lil chirren ting” when the reality is that the age difference between that older person condemning the culture, and the young person performing “lil chirren ting” is two years. We see this happening consistently with TikTok trends.

Now, for social media in general, there are platforms which, because of the specific culture and user-interface, might be more suited for one generational group as opposed to another. The over-30 segment of the population in Guyana depend heavily on Facebook as a social and cultural space for their daily socialising. The folks below age 30 might also use Facbeook, but might also choose instead to engage through Twitter or Instagram largely because those spaces are somewhat inaccessible to their parental and, in some cases, senior workplace figures.

A point was made previously about user interfaces of the respective platforms. When we think of the user interface for Facebook, we think of the react, comment and share functions. We might also think of the simple layout of the newsfeed, pop-up messages including with Facebook messenger, and even the increasingly popular Facebook marketplace.

Twitter on the other hand has a much more complex interface of tweets, threads, retweets, quote tweets, mentions, and now, Twitter spaces. There is even an underground culture of “burners” for the deep Twitter users. It might be a tad too frustrating for the over-30 segment of the population that wants to connect simply with family and friends while also engaging in some “commess.”

TikTok bridges the gap between and among the generational groups by employing a simple interface of simply swiping up to view new content, while having culturally relevant content with rapidly changing trends that everyone wants to get in on. It is also useful that TikTok content, albeit just as algorithmically dependent as Facebook’s and Twitter’s, does not have the same algorithmic considerations as on other platforms. This makes TikTok a much more pleasing experience. Added to that, an account is not necessary to access TikTok content.

As it stands, there is no secret that folks, both young and old, can enjoy TikTok content drawn from content creators on a spectrum as diverse as North West (@kimandnorth) (Kayne West’s daughter) to senior folk living their best lives on the Retirement House (@retirementhouse). What the platform does, however, is bring everyone to one particular cultural point that, if done intentionally, could be used to bridge ever-widening generational gaps that have created strains in family relations. For teachers, this could be a useful tool to make their lessons more interactive. If only they were allowed the space to explore.

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