TikTok will soon introduce a radical new feature set to turn the lives of teenagers on their heads. A 60 minute screen time limit, and it’s on by default.
Head of Trust and Safety for TikTok Cormac Keenan says “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. “
The setting is part of a range of new features which TikTok places under a banner of “Digital wellbeing” – looking to ensure users are given the tools and controls to get the most from the app, while setting limits at the same time.
For Teenagers, that one hour limit will be turned on by default in the coming weeks, but importantly for parents, it’s a toggle switch they can simply turn off.
It’s also important for parents to know that even with the limit turned on, a teen can continue to watch TikTok after 60 minutes by entering a passcode on the screen. This is what TikTok refers to a prompt requiring the teen to make an “active decision” to extend their time.
If a teen does disable the limit entirely, they will then be prompted to set their own limit when they spend more than 100 minutes per day on the app.
Critically though, TikTok does have some of the most advanced family controls of any social media app. For parents looking to set rules and limits around the use of TikTok, they can setup what’s called Family Pairing. This links the parent’s account to the child, and allows the parent to control a range of features.
These features include screen-time, and when Family Pairing is enabled that control is taken away from the teenager.
Within the Family Pairing settings, parents will now be able to set screen time limits based on the day of the week, as well as see a dashboard showing screen time usage, number of times the app was opened and a breakdown of time spent during the day and night.
Additionally, settings are available to control notifications from TikTok. Set by default to no notifications after 9pm for kids aged 13 to 15, and no notifications after 10pm for those aged 16 to 17. These settings can also be changed by the parent.
These are not the first safety and wellbeing settings from TikTok. Already those aged 13-15 have their accounts set to private by default, and direct messaging isn’t available until age 16, and live streaming not available until 18 years old.
Of course, there are several important factors to consider in all of this.
Firstly, do the parents even know their child has TikTok? Did the child put in their real age when they joined – or is an 11 year old using TikTok already??
These are issues primarily for Parents – there’s no way for TikTok to validate ages of users on the app – in particular the youngest.
But parents who show a strong interest in their child’s smartphone usage, monitor their app usage and discuss screen time will find these tools, and the advanced Family Pairing settings valuable as part of their Digital parenting journey.
None of this is worth anything if parents just install and enforce rules without any discussion. Kids will just bypass the rules.