TikTok has announced a series of new features aimed at reducing screen time and improving the well-being of its youngest users.
In the coming weeks, a daily screen time limit of 60 minutes will be automatically applied to every TikTok user under the age of 18. Teens who have reached this limit will be prompted to enter a password to continue watching. They can disable the feature entirely, but if they do and spend more than 100 minutes on TikTok per day, they’ll be prompted to set a new limit.
TikTok claims these prompts increased usage of screen time management tools by 234 percent in the first month of testing the feature. Teens will also receive an inbox notification each week that recaps their usage time, letting younger users know how much time they’re spending on the app and requiring them to make active decisions to extend the recommended screen time.
The changes appear to be designed to make users more aware of their screen time
TikTok says it consulted current academic research and experts from the Digital Wellness Lab at Boston Children’s Hospital to decide how long the time limit should be.
“While there is no collectively agreed position on how much screen time is too much, or even the impact of screen time more broadly, we recognize that teenagers often need extra support as they begin to explore the online world independently,” said Cormac. Keenan, Head of Trust and Security at TikTok, in a statement.
The 60-minute time limit will also apply to children under 13 using the limited ‘TikTok for Younger’ app experience. In this case, a parent or guardian will need to set or enter an existing password to enable 30 minutes of additional watch time on the account if the usage time limit is reached.
Four new features are also added to Family Pairing, TikTok’s customizable parental controls that allow a parent or guardian to link their TikTok account with a younger user’s account. Custom limits can be applied, allowing restrictions to be adjusted based on what day of the week it is (or more widely extended during school holidays).
Family Pairing will also grant access to TikTok’s screen time dashboard, which summarizes how much time a child has spent on the app, how often it’s been opened, and a breakdown detailing time spent throughout the day and night. A new Mute Notifications setting will soon let parents set a schedule to mute app notifications on their kids’ accounts. Push notifications are already automatically muted from 21:00 for users between 13 and 15, while push notifications are disabled from 22:00 for 16-17 year olds.
Finally, TikTok says it’s developing new content controls that will allow caregivers to filter out videos with words or hashtags they don’t want their kids to watch. The company is working with “parent, youth and civil society organizations” in the coming weeks to design the feature.
Outside of Family Pairing, TikTok said some of these settings will be widely available across all accounts “soon,” allowing each user to schedule mute notifications and set custom screen time limits for each day of the week. A sleep reminder is also introduced that allows users to set a time to be reminded to close the app and go to sleep.
TikTok hasn’t said exactly when the new features announced today will roll out to users. We’ve reached out to TikTok for a release timeline and will update this story if we hear back.