If your child is on TikTok, chances are that he/she has seen a lot of people talking about mascara recently – but it isn’t about make-up. People have been using the word to talk about their relationships in a way that avoids TikTok’s censorship filters.
Since the #mascara trend originated a month ago, it has racked up more than 100 million views.
But what is mascara if it isn’t makeup?
TikTok algorithms block posts that overtly talk about sexual parts, sexual exploitation and sexual experiences, so bless our t/weens they have found a work-around.
What’s the lowdown?
Code words or “algospeak” are common on TikTok, and words like ‘grape’ for rape – and ‘unalive’ suicide are used constantly to talk about experiences that our teens often don’t want to talk about in real life.
These code words are all response to the app’s ban on sexually explicit language and content. The current Mascara Trend on TikTok uses the code words in the image below:
“Algospeak” isn’t a new thing online. There was a time when most people didn’t know what OMG, LOL or IKR meant.
Now if you say “SA”, our teens already either know it means sexual assault or they can Google it and find out. Ditto the Mascara Trend.
Some of our screenagers have begun using the trend to discuss their experiences with sexual assault or unwanted sexual contact. “When I was 16 I was forced to wear mascara. Now I get vivid flashbacks when I even look at mascara.”
At a push, some may say the mascara trend is one way for our teens to “talk” to each other about their sexual experiences. One could even go further to argue that sharing assault-related sexual experiences creates spaces for teens not to feel alone in their suffering, but it remains that these are not appropriate forums for ‘discussion’ let alone healing.
Using TikTok as a place in which to find empathy may lead to more hurt when people at best dismiss the experience and at worst, overtly belittle, mock or shame the person further. And of course, we all know how easily that can happen. Our teens don’t always know this until it happens to them personally.
Trends like the mascara trend on TikTok also need to be coupled with the understanding that these codes and their meanings are quite quickly decoded and may be seen by younger kids, for whom the videos were not intended. Our younger tweens will learn second hand about the sexual experiences of others before they have had their own experiences – and this too can have a profound impact on their psyche.
- Have you heard of the Mascara Trend on TikTok (if not explain it directly and truthfully)
- Do you think it can be helpful or harmful to use codewords to bypass the TikTok?
- Do you think younger kids on TikTok understand that the #mascara trend is about sexual experiences? How do you think this might affect them?
- What value is there in talking to strangers online about some really painful life experiences?
- What value is there in talking to people in real life about a painful experience?
For more information on TikTok including what our screenagers love about it, what you should worry about and how to keep your child safe on TikTok if they are going to use it, download our free eBook, A Parent’s Ultimate Guide to TikTok.
To get your step-by-step guide on how to manage your child and their device in only 4 x short videos that you can watch in your own time, sign up to our “Damn! This Device! Mini Workshop”
Sarah and Pam