The TikTokkers Taking Down the Troubled Teen Industry

We spoke with two survivors about what it’s been like finding their community on TikTok, and how the app is helping spread the word.


Episode Notes

The “troubled teen” industry, which refers to a network of private wilderness youth programs, therapeutic boarding schools, and residential treatment centers has recently come under scrutiny thanks to TikTok. Survivors of this industry have taken to the app to post stories of their traumatic experiences. On today’s show, Madison and Rachelle talk to Kendee and Daniel, two TikTokkers who’ve become voices of the “troubled teen” industry survivor movement. They take us through what they refer to as “legal kidnapping”, the harsh conditions and manual labor they were subjected to, what life’s been like since they got out, and how TikTok has helped them heal.

This podcast is produced by Daniel Schroeder, Rachelle Hampton, and Madison Malone Kircher.


About the Show

Join Rachelle Hampton twice a week as we gaze deep into the online abyss—and tell you what’s gazing back.

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  • Rachelle Hampton is a culture writer and reporter at Slate and co-host of ICYMI. Her work has appeared in the New Republic, Pacific Standard, Smithsonian Magazine, and In These Times. She still hasn't recovered from Tumblr’s demise.

  • Madison Malone Kircher is a senior writer at Slate and co-host of ICYMI. She was previously a staff writer at New York magazine, where she covered internet culture and edited New York’s Approval Matrix. Her work has appeared in Vogue, Vulture, and the Cut. Madison lives in Brooklyn, where she regularly drops her phone on her face watching TikToks in bed.