Campaigners have accused TikTok of helping children to be ‘brainwashed’ by hosting viral social-media videos that promote changing sex as ‘cool’.
Material posted by transgender influencers on the social networking service – in which they provide advice on transitioning and accessing hormone therapies – has been seen by millions of young viewers.
Some parents are concerned the involvement of TikTok, which became the UK’s most downloaded app last year, is fuelling a ‘social contagion’ of pressure on impressionable youngsters and the rise in teenagers who are identifying as trans.
More than a quarter of British TikTok users are aged between 15 and 25, and children aged between four and 15 who sign up spend an average of 69 minutes on the app each day, according to TikTok’s own data.
Analysis by The Mail on Sunday shows that videos with the hashtag #Trans have been seen more than 26 billion times.
TikTok signed a partnership earlier this year with Stonewall, the controversial lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights charity, to promote this material.
One popular transgender TikTok influencer, Bella Fitzpatrick, raised £20,000 from followers in less than three months to fund private gender-reassignment surgery.
The 19-year-old has 700,000 followers and explains the process of transitioning, including her experience of bypassing NHS waiting lists.
Another is Alex Consani, 18, who has more than 680,000 followers. She went viral five years ago when, aged 12, Cosmopolitan magazine featured her life as a trans model.
One of her videos, seen 2.3 million times, tells followers they are ‘one oestrogen pill away from a glow up’. A ‘glow up’ is a mental, physical and emotional transformation for the better.
A channel featuring influencer Jaison Jowett shows the process of transitioning and carrying out reassignment surgery.
One video includes the caption ‘Heal with me after top surgery!’ – a reference to a reconstructive chest operation.
Another video begins with the words ‘I used to be a good Christian kid’ before showing the transformation to a ‘trans, gay atheist who loves tattoos and chaos’.
Last night, Kate Harris, of the LGB Alliance, which opposes Stonewall’s policies on transgender issues, said: ‘Our major concern is that millions of impressionable children are watching these online influencers.
‘It’s no coincidence that the growth of TikTok coincides exactly with the exponential growth of children presenting with gender dysphoria.’
Ms Harris described some of the videos as ‘deeply frightening’, adding: ‘The message is so often, “Don’t involve your parents.”
‘What these videos would lead a generation of children to believe is that it is easy to change sex and that it is the answer to all of your problems.’
Stephanie Arai-Davies, from Transgender Trend which wants more evidence-based healthcare for children with gender dysphoria, said: ‘It’s hugely influential and it’s full of videos that portray medical transition as cool and edgy. Gender is seen as the new rebellion.
‘These social media platforms that promote medical transition should be made to include a warning on such material.’
A spokesman for TikTok said: ‘We are honoured that the LGBTQ+ community has embraced TikTok from our very early days, as a platform for self-expression, education, community-building and joy.’
A spokesman for Stonewall said: ‘Our content allows young LGBTQ+ people to know that they are not alone in their experiences.’