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TikTok, in an effort to show it’s being a good internet citizen, introduced new features to cap the time kids spend on the video app.
In the next few weeks, every TikTok account belonging to a user under the age of 18 will automatically be set to a 60-minute daily screen time limit. If the 60-minute limit is reached, teens will be prompted to enter a passcode in order to continue watching, “requiring them to make an active decision to extend that time,” Cormac Keenan, TikTok’s head of trust and safety, wrote in a blog post.
For TikTok users under 13, the daily screen-time limit also will be set to 60 minutes, and for these accounts a parent or guardian must enter a passcode to enable 30 minutes of additional watch time.
Of course, teens 13 and older can simply ignore or opt out of the 60-minute default. If users disable the 60-minute screen-time limit and spend more than 100 minutes on the app per day, TikTok will prompt them to set a daily screen time limit. In addition, the app will send every teen account a weekly inbox notification with a recap of their screen time. TikTok last year rolled out a prompt in the app to “encourage teens to enable screen time management,” Keenan said, which testing found increased the use of screen time tools by 234%.
“While there’s no collectively endorsed position on the ‘right’ amount of screen time or even the impact of screen time more broadly, we consulted the current academic research and experts from the Digital Wellness Lab at Boston Children’s Hospital in choosing this limit,” Keenan explained.
TikTok also is adding three new parental-control features: the ability for caregivers to use TikTok’s Family Pairing feature to customize daily screen-time limits for teens, including choosing different time limits depending on the day of the week; a screen-time dashboard, which provides summaries of time on the app, the number of times TikTok was opened, and a breakdown of total time spent during the day and night; and a new setting that lets parents set a schedule to mute notifications for their teen. According to TikTok, accounts for users aged 13-15 already do not receive push notifications from 9 p.m. and those for users aged 16-17 have push notifications disabled from 10 p.m.
“In addition to bringing these new features to Family Pairing, everyone will soon be able to set their own customized screen time limits for each day of the week and set a schedule to mute notifications,” Keenan wrote. TikTok also is rolling out a sleep reminder to “help people more easily plan when they want to be offline at night.”
The additional features build on TikTok’s existing safety settings for teen accounts. For users 13-15, accounts are set private by default; direct messaging is available only to users 16 and older; and livestreaming is limited to those 18 and older.
The changes come as the popular short-form video app, owned by China’s ByteDance, has drawn fire from lawmakers in the U.S. and other countries as representing a national security threat. Bills introduced in Congress would grant President Biden the authority to ban TikTok in the U.S. under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act.
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