September 29, 2022

Is Google out as the top search engine for students?

Students are turning to TikTok as their main search engine. Does this threaten students’ media literacy?

In The Social Institute’s, Find Your Influencers Lesson, Evaluating News Sources and Informations in our Social Feeds, students learned that young adults are over 4x more likely to get news from a smartphone, tablet, or computer than from television.

With TikTok dominating the social media scene over the last few years, it is no surprise that the app’s cultural impact is great. From popular dances to clothing trends, TikTok is leaving its mark on Gen Z. Its influence has grown so much that students are looking to the social media platform in search of information, instead of popular search engines like Google. 

Though TikTok gives students an outlet for their creativity and provides a way to connect with each other, research has shown that 1 in 5 TikTok videos contain misinformation on serious topics, such as climate change, vaccinations, and politics. As students look to TikTok for answers, where misinformation is common, it’s important that we teach students the right places to look for information, how to be critical thinkers when researching subjects, and how to improve their media literacy skills overall.

How much misinformation is being spread on TikTok?

Research by NewsGuard analysts has found that when searching for information on TikTok, approximately 20% of search results contained false or misleading claims. To not influence outcomes, researchers created new accounts to conduct searches and found that the information contrasted with Google searches. Google consistently produced better quality results, with less bias and misinformation

When using the search term “climate change,” the suggested searches TikTok displayed were “climate change debunked” and “climate change doesn’t exist,” whereas Google suggested “climate change news” and “climate change effects”.

NewsGuard also observed TikTok videos giving potentially dangerous health remedies, false information about the Russia-Ukraine war, and conspiracies about the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas. With 1 in 5 videos on TikTok containing this kind of misinformation, students should be informed about the best practices and places to look for information on the topics they find important.

TSI’s take on how misinformation affects students

Should students delete TikTok altogether? No! For many students, TikTok is a platform to express themselves, share things that make them happy, and connect with like-minded people across the world. 

However, we can empower students to identify the misinformation on TikTok that can influence students. Here at The Social Institute, we want students to find their influencers and fill their feed with trusted and credible news sources. 

What can students do to improve their media literacy?

When students fill their feeds with credible news sources, they are more likely to demonstrate a more well-rounded worldview and share their educated understanding with others.

To improve your students’ media literacy, encourage them to think about these questions while they are looking for information:

  • Do I know if the website I am using is known for having credible information?
  • Am I ridding myself of my own biases and opinions while I’m searching for information?
  • Does the author of this article cite information from reliable sources?

TikTok is a great platform to make funny videos, share memories, and discuss new trends, but when it comes to using it as a search engine, students should be mindful of the amount of misinformation that is present on the app and maybe stick with Google for school work.

Want to access more lessons like “Evaluating News Sources and Informations in our Social Feeds” that empower students to make informed decisions about the content they see on social media and think critically before reacting to headlines? Contact us today to learn how you can bring #WinAtSocial, our online, gamified learning platform to your school!

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The Social Institute (TSI) is the leader in understanding student experiences and creator of #WinAtSocial, a gamified, online learning platform that equips students, educators, and families to navigate social experiences — online and offline — in healthy ways. Our unique, student-respected approach incorporates topics like social media, technology use, and current events that have a significant impact on student well-being. Lessons teach life skills for the modern day to inspire high-character decisions that support the health, happiness, and future success of students, while capturing data that provides insights to school leaders to inform school policy and communications, and enable high-impact teaching and a healthy learning environment. For schools, our turnkey technology allows for easy implementation and a comprehensive game plan to support the well-being of school communities. For schools, our turnkey technology allows for easy implementation and a comprehensive game plan to support the well-being of school communities.