TikTok Stars - Some of the Most Popular Teens in America...and the Most Irresponsible


Who do people look up to in unprecedented times? Currently, many adults look to state leaders, governors, and doctors who have been taking charge during this unparalleled time of COVID-19. They might watch the news, listen to conferences, or read articles. But who are kids and teenagers looking up to? Parents and guardians might be the primary people many seem to find comfort in, but next in line is a whole world of celebrities and TikTok stars.


These teenagers who are getting millions of followers seemingly overnight gain their following from a mostly young audience. The average age of users of the app TikTok is around 13-24-year-olds, many of whom are still developing brains and look to some of their favorite influencers to find some guidance.


 Social media stars can bring comfort to someone during times of hardship, but they also can have a negative impact on their viewers. While it is great to feel connected to famous people you follow and look up to, influencers’ actions are not always positive. With people across the country quarantining in their homes, not being able to see friends and family,  and losing out on the last couple of months of school over the past five and a half months, many influencers seem to be “breaking the rules.”


To illustrate, some of the most popular creators on TikTok live or have lived in The Hype House,a giant house in the middle of L.A. with over 30 members — together representing over 100 million followers total (and still growing). For views and content purposes only — completely disregarding the health and safety of themselves and others — they have continuously thrown (maskless) parties, regularly talk to fans (maskless), and meet with paparazzi to speak about the recent “drama” happening in their lives (maskless). The further we get into 2020, and a global pandemic,  influencers are less conscious about their actions.


These stars are called influencers for a reason: they influence the way young children and teenagers act. Being a role model comes with responsibilities, yet unfortunately, it seems to be something they frequently forget.


About two weeks ago, when the number of COVID-19 cases in California rose over 190,000, famous YouTuber and makeup guru, Nikita Dragun, decided to throw a giant party inside of the Hype House for TikTok star Larray’s birthday.


What seemed to be almost 100 guests arrived at the party, maskless and ready to have the time of their lives. Some were drinking, but most were dancing to music and talking to paparazzi and fans outside. Sweating, breathing hard, giving many hugs. The whole event seemed to be a perfect example of ‘what not to do’ during a pandemic.


Needless to say, it was irresponsible. Some guests, such as James Charles and Tana Mongeau, who posted videos of them in attendance at the party, have issued a public apology. However, the influencers responsible for the party have not apologized nor taken responsibility for the party altogether. What kind of example are these celebrities being to teenagers? That it is okay to disregard every public health warning? That it is okay to put the lives of yourself and others in danger? As someone who has enjoyed watching these influencers’ videos in the past, I am quite embarrassed I ever supported some of these people who have been so blatantly disrespectful and irresponsible during this pandemic. 


These influencers need to apologize for their actions and realize their impact on children. Their actions not only impact themselves and the people in their immediate circle but the millions of viewers who watch them daily. We should not show the children of this world that it is okay to party during a pandemic and that it is okay to risk the lives of hundreds of people because these influencers think they are “better” or “more important” than others. I am appalled at how they have been treating the situation of COVID-19, and hope they all grow up to teach their audience what it means to be a good, decent human being.

SJA student articles

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by Alyssa T.

Have you wondered why there are so many food delivery apps powered by AI today? What do Grubhub, Uber eats, Seamless, and Postmates all have in common? They were all founded by hungry white males in their 20s and 30s who were tired out of outdated paper menus. From a survey by RateMyInvestor and Diversity VC, the typical founding team of the 4,475 surveyed was a “two person, all male, all white, U.S. University-educated team residing in Silicon Valley.”


According to the World Economic Forum and National Science Board, as of 2018, merely 22 percent of artificial intelligence professionals globally are women and a measly 10.8 percent of people employed in science and engineering jobs in the United States identify as Black or Hispanic. A lack of diversity is not only detrimental to minorities, it also contributes to racial and other societal bias in AI products. Only with broad participation will the AI products also learn from diverse perspectives.


Furthermore, a World Economic Forum report suggested that “89% of US-based companies are planning to adopt user and entity big data analytics by 2022, while more than 70% want to integrate the internet of things, explore web and app-enabled markets, and take advantage of machine learning and cloud computing.” Although AI will create new jobs, it will also displace many that did not previously use machine learning. Machines and algorithms in the workplace are expected to create 133 million new roles, but cause 75 million jobs to be displaced by 2022, creating 58 million net new jobs in the next few years according to the World Economic Forum. This means that over 200 million jobs will soon require knowledge of computer science and those who lose their jobs will need assistance in finding employment.


Given this digital revolution across many industries, it is imperative that underrepresented minorities receive the education they need to thrive in this new environment. The government must provide funding to ensure all students learn AI related skills, companies should retrain their workers with necessary new skills, and colleges should provide extra support for those who need it. To prepare for this shift in the labor market, primary and secondary schools should integrate computer science early into their curriculum. 


Cynthia Breazeal, a professor at MIT, told MIT News that students need to be provided with “tools and conceptual frameworks” that allow them “to engage with our materials as conscientious designers of AI-enabled technologies.” Lack of awareness and exposure in primary and secondary school is an issue. Code.org and AI4ALL state that currently, only 45 percent of high schools in the U.S. teach computer science and “only 1 in 4 students (26%) who attend high poverty schools have access to any CS course in their school.” Just as elementary school children learn to read and write, they should also be exposed to block coding and the basics of computational logic in a creative and engaging way. Educators specializing in computer science can travel from school to school teaching a few hours a week. They will become role models to these students and facilitate peer support. As their knowledge builds momentum in middle and high school, each should be equipped with the software tools and have a chance to use it to tackle issues or challenges they are passionate about. Even if they do not ultimately work in software development, students can pursue interdisciplinary studies where they combine their interests with computer science. Psychology, design, and environmental science majors can all work together in the field of artificial intelligence. 


Many community colleges currently only teach classes on coding languages such as Python, C++, and Java. It would be helpful to extend the classes to teach application of coding in careers. That way they can prepare students for entry level AI based jobs. At the university level, both private and public schools should support underrepresented minorities by offering free tutoring and summer classes to better prepare students who need extra support. Scholarships can aid those who need to work instead of attending summer classes. Government policies must be in place to provide a budget for the public schools to implement these new curriculums especially in underserved areas.


Although some may say that adding AI based education for all these groups will be too costly, leaving millions of young adults unemployed from lack of necessary technical skills will be far more costly. Funding from the government and major tech corporations must be provided to train teachers and retrain employees whose jobs may be replaced by AI. Without these measures, there will be massive economic consequences in the near future. 


Increasing diversity in the field is also essential to reducing biases in machine learning training models and expanding perspectives in AI. This may lead to new startups that serve the needs of the broader population, as founders of companies tend to cater to the needs of those of the same gender and ethnicity. 


Much like the industrial revolution, AI will drive a new wave of growth which everyone can benefit from if no group is left behind.