Social media app TikTok, which has been banned by all US government agencies amid increasing scrutiny over its security, is setting a new default time limit for teenagers.
In the coming weeks, accounts owned by users under 18 will automatically be set to a daily screen time limit of 60 minutes, TikTok announced Wednesday.
After the 60-minute limit is reached, the user will be prompted to enter a password to continue watching, “requiring them to make an active decision to extend this time,” TikTok said.
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Meanwhile, a parent or guardian should set or enter an existing password to allow 30 minutes of additional viewing time once the initial 60 minute limit is reached for accounts held by users under 13;
The unit of Chinese internet technology company ByteDance is also pushing teenagers to set a daily screen limit if they opt out of the 60-minute default and spend more than 100 minutes on TikTok a day. It will also send each teen account a weekly inbox notification with a recap of their screen time.
While “there is no collectively agreed-upon position on the ‘right’ amount of screen time,” TikTok said it consulted current academic research and experts from Boston Children’s Hospital in choosing the time limit.
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Among the changes announced Wednesday, the company says all users will be able to set custom screen time limits for each day of the week and set a schedule to silence notifications. TikTok says it’s also rolling out a sleep reminder to help set a reminder to log out at night.
The company said the recent changes build on previous efforts to push teens to turn on screen time management, which TikTok says has increased use of screen time tools by 234 percent.
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The upgrades come amid growing scrutiny over the popular short-form video app over its impact on young people’s mental health.
According to a recent study by researchers at the nonprofit Center to Combat Digital Hate, two-thirds of American teenagers use TikTok, and the average user spends 80 minutes a day on the app.
The researchers created fictional teenage personas and “liked” videos about self-harm and eating disorders to see how TikTok’s algorithm would react.
“Within 2.6 minutes, TikTok recommended suicide content. Within 8 minutes, TikTok served content related to eating disorders. Every 39 seconds, TikTok recommended videos about body image and mental health to teens,” the researchers said.
Social media algorithms work by identifying topics and content that interest a user, which is then sent more as a way of maximizing their time on the site.
But critics of social media say the same algorithms that promote content about a particular sports team, hobby or dance craze can lead users down a cesspool of harmful content.
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Earlier this week, federal agencies were instructed to develop a plan to delete TikTok from all government devices and systems within 30 days, according to a memo obtained by FOX Business.
The directive, from Office of Management and Budget Director Shalanda Young, comes after Congress approved “There is no TikTok law on government devices” as part of the massive 4,115-page government funding bill in December, which directed the Office of Management and Budget to bar the implementation.
Paul Best of FOX Business and The Associated Press contributed to this report.