Researchers are warning that information about autism which circulates on the social media platform TikTok is not always accurate.
The warning comes following a study published in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders which found that just over one quarter (27%) of the most-watched TikTok videos on autism are accurate.
The researchers of the study say that while it is positive that information about autism is now more accessible to the general public, it is important to remember that a lot of this information is “misaligned with current knowledge.”
Videos about autism have accrued 11.5 billion views on TikTok
As well as the accuracy of the information, the researchers were also examined the reach.
TikTok has roughly 1.677 billion users globally and 1.1 billion monthly active users, and videos associated with the hashtag ‘#Autism’ were found to have accrued 11.5 billion views.
The top 133 videos which provided informational content on autism totalled 198.7 million views and 25.2 million likes.
The researchers then analysed these top viewed videos and categorised each piece of content into accurate, inaccurate and overgeneralised.
To do this, two independent coders reviewed the content and analysed whether it aligned or misaligned with established scientific knowledge on autism.
The researchers only marked a video as ‘inaccurate’ when it unequivocally contradicted scientific understanding.
Overgeneralisation typically pertained to individuals implying their individual experience applied to the whole autistic spectrum, or not representing the entire spectrum of manifestations within the autistic population.
In total, 27% were found to be inaccurate, 41% were accurate and 32% were overgeneralised.
Concerningly, there were no significant differences in engagement between accurate and inaccurate/over generalised videos.
Healthcare professionals should be aware of autism-related content shared on TikTok
The researchers also found that videos by healthcare professionals were the most likely to include accurate information/information that aligned with current scientific research.
They conclude, therefore, that it is important for healthcare providers and other professionals to be “aware of the autism-related content being shared on TikTok so that they can better engage with the large community of TikTok users.”