Sexual education videos on short video-making app TikTok aren't being screened for misinformation and don't give teenagers and adolescents a proper understanding of the sensitive subject, researchers said.
While some obstetricians, gynaecologists and other health care professionals have actively engaged in TikTok as a popular content creator, providing science-based content and answering questions posed by other users, the ever-growing quantity of content available on TikTok makes responding to all misinformation impractical.
"There is no guarantee a user will ever encounter these corrective videos," the study authors from Johns Hopkins University and University of Houston in the US, wrote.
To understand this further, the team conducted a content analysis of themes for 100 sex education-focused videos on TikTok.
"We found that female anatomy was the most frequently addressed topic. Sexual pleasure was the second most common theme, within which discussions of the female orgasm and arousal constituted the most common sub theme," said Stephanie Morain from the Johns Hopkins University's Bloomberg School of Public Health.
Other common themes include contraception and sexual health.
"Our findings suggest several areas where traditional sexual education approaches may not be meeting adolescents' informational needs," said Leah Fowler from the University of Houston.
The researchers concluded with recommendations for future research to consider the factual accuracy of sex education on TikTok and "determine how exposure to this content affects adolescents' understanding of the risks and benefits of intercourse, sexual practices, age-and gender-based sexual norms, and other health behaviours."
TikTok recently crossed a billion monthly users worldwide.
It also surpassed tech giant Google as the most popular website of the year. According to a report by IT security company Cloudflare, the viral video app gets more hits than the US-based search engine.