Coronavirus News: TikTok experiences boom during COVID-19 pandemic

NEW YORK (WABC) -- The global coronavirus pandemic has fueled the rise of an app that makes it easy for anyone to lip sync to their favorite tune or dance to the music of the latest hit, and most parents of teens already know that TikTok has got nothing to do with the sound of a clock.

"Open the TikTok app, then close the TikTok app. Say you won't go back, and then you open it again," model Manuela Frey lip synced on the side of a mountain in Switzerland. "You think about the days when you used to have a life, and you go right back to scrolling."

Frey was having some fun with an app where she posts regularly. TikTok is 800 million strong and counting around the world.

"This has become a TikTok moment, because everybody just wanted to do something fun during this sad corona time," she said.

Frey is the host of "Switzerland's Next Top Model," but she first downloaded the app while under quarantine in her Manhattan apartment.

"I was five weeks all alone in New York City, and it definitely helped me," she said. "And every time I opened the TikTok app, I had to smile. It made me laugh and put me in a good mood."

She is just one of more than 57 million followers of a Connecticut teenager, Charli D'Amelio, who has become the breakout star of TikTok.

"Charli is the quintessential girl next door," said Natalie Jarvey, who covers the beat for The Hollywood Reporter. "You see her in her bedroom wearing a high school sweatshirt and she's doing these dances, and you think, 'Oh, I can do that too. She's like me, and I want to be a part of that.'"

Young women 18 to 24 represent almost a quarter of all users, and celebrities like J-Lo have embraced TikTok as a new way to reach fans.

"TikTok has an incredibly powerful algorithm where you turn on the app and go to the 'For You' page," Jarvey said. "It learns over time what your interests are and selects the videos it thinks you're going to be most interested in."

Critics worry about a lack of privacy, especially for underage users. Some parents have sued and asked the Federal Trade Commission to investigate TikTok, but none of this is expected to slow its remarkable growth.

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