TikTok adding teen safety features to limit downloads and screen time

This week TikTok introduced a set of changes to its platform specifically aimed at teens aged 13 to 17 and in particular to more responsibly manage the way in which they consume content.

Those in this age bracket should see the changes come into effect in the coming months, as TikTok rolls it our globally across its different ecosystems.

The first change pertains to direct messaging. When someone aged 16 to 17 joins TikTok, their DM setting will now be set to ‘No One’ by default.

“To message others, they will need to actively switch to a different sharing option. Existing accounts who have never used DMs before will receive a prompt asking them to review and confirm their privacy settings the next time they use this feature,” explains the platform in a blog post.

Next is how videos are shared by those under the age of 16, with a pop-up now being added displaying options available as far as “who can watch this video”. This new pop-up also requires an action before a video can be published to TikTok if you’re 16 or younger on the platform.

“With each video going forward, creators can decide who can watch before they post. Accounts aged 13-15 are set to private by default, and private accounts can choose to share their content with Followers or Friends, as the ‘Everyone’ setting is turned off. Duet and Stitch are also disabled for accounts under 16,” adds the company.

Downloads too have received a change, with 16 and 17 year olds prompted to choose whether downloads are allowed. TikTok also notes that downloads are permanently disabled on content from accounts under the age of 16.

Lastly, TikTok is using its push notification system to address screen time, which can either be enabled by a user or by parents/guardians under the Family Pairing option.

“We’ll be drawing upon this research to make changes that reduce the time period during which our younger teens can receive push notifications. Accounts aged 13-15 will not receive push notifications from 9pm, and accounts aged 16-17 will have push notifications disabled starting at 10pm,” the company concludes.

As for what prompted the roll out of the new changes by TikTok remains unclear, but given that YouTube and Instagram have introduced similar teen safety controls on their platform, this company may simply be getting ahead of the regulators who would likely have sizeable fines in store should they violate policies like COPPA.

Whatever the reason, it is at least pleasing to see social media platforms talk teen safety seriously, but whether these features work as intended is another issue altogether.


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