TikTok will automatically stop kids under the age of 18 from using its app for more than an hour each day. The new restrictions are part of a wide set of features that are intended to improve the well-being of the teen users.
Any account belonging to someone under 18 will now automatically be subject to a 60-minute daily screen time limit, TikTok said in a press release Wednesday (March 1). If they want to switch that limit off, they will have to enter a passcode. This is intended to ensure that they are required to “make an active decision to extend that time” if they want to continue scrolling.
If users opt to turn off that default limit and then spend more than 100 minutes each day on the app, they will be encouraged to set a new screen time limit. Research shows that being more aware of how we spend our time can help us be more intentional about the decisions we make. TikTok says that testing found this prompt helped increase the use of its screen time features by 234%. Young people will also be sent a weekly message detailing how much they have used the app over recent days.
The new feature comes alongside new “family pairing” features. This will allow parents to customize the daily screen time limit for their teens. They can choose different time limits depending on the day of the week. That way, they can match screen time to school schedules, holiday breaks, family travel etc. Parents will also be able to view a dashboard that shows summaries on how often their kids have opened the app. They can also get a breakdown of total time spent during the day and night.
Finally, parents will also be able to set a schedule to mute notifications. Accounts aged 13-15 already do not receive push notifications from 9 p.m. Accounts for 16-17 year olds have push notifications disabled from 10 p.m.
The new changes come amid increasing concern about the harm TikTok might be doing to young users. The app is built to keep users scrolling through a practically limitless number of videos. It uses other methods to ensure that its users stay engaged with that feed.
TikTok suggested that it had not made the 60-minute limit a firm ruling. This is, in part, because it believes that all families are different. They believe that there is “no collectively-endorsed position on how much screen time is ‘too much.’ Or even the impact of screen time more broadly.”
Some of the features that were introduced as part of the well-being tools will be rolled out to other users, regardless of age. All users 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. In addition, the app is rolling out a sleep reminder to help people more easily plan when they want to be offline at night. People can set a time, and when it’s reached, a pop-up will remind them it’s time to log off.