Even TikTok admits that teenagers and tweens spend a lot of time on TikTok and now, somewhat surprisingly, the popular social media platform is doing something about it.
The company announced in a blog post on Wednesday (Opens in a new tab) is a new effort to help young people manage their time on TikTok with some of the best smartphones, although it depends on the members of the platform telling the truth about their age.
Soon, TikTok will set a 60-minute usage limit for all users under 18. The prompt, however, may be more of a suggestion that teenagers only need to enter a passcode to their time will increase. For those who do so and break the 100-minute barrier (who doesn’t?), TikTok will soon encourage them to set their own screen time limits for the app.
Usage rules for those under 13 may be stricter. Once they reach the 60-minute limit, a parent or guardian must enter a code to restore access. There is nothing to advertise how TikTok verifies the age of its users.
TikTok is pairing these new limits with a collection of screentime management tools it’s adding to its Family Pairing parental control feature. They include a screen time dashboard and the ability to mute notifications. The latter should help prevent TikTok’s phone notifications from pulling teenagers back to the platform.
The measures come just two days before the US celebrates National Unplugging Day (Opens in a new tab)an unofficial gadget and social media holiday where people of all ages are encouraged to put down gadgets and screens and relearn pre-digital skills such as recreational, screen-free time to sleep, and face-to-face social interaction.
Whether you believe in unplugging or not, there’s no disputing the current, shocking trends in screen time, especially among teenagers and tweens.
A growing problem
Screentime among tweens and teenagers has grown over the years and all exploded during the pandemic. The 2021 Common Sense Media survey reported a 17% increase in media use between 2019 and 2021. A recent study put the daily use of TikTok by children at 80 minutes per day. That’s a lot of short videos.
Parents and perhaps some overstimulated teenagers may welcome some structure to screentime but it’s also worth remembering that TikTok’s motives may not be entirely altruistic. The company has faced heavy scrutiny from US Government officials, many of whom have called for an outright ban on TikTok. The concern, however, has nothing to do with excessive screen time and everything to do with TikTok’s relationship with the Chinese government.
TikTok is still owned by the Chinese tech firm ByteDance and many fear that the Chinese government will have unrestricted access to TikTok data and, therefore, all our activities on the platform. However, TikTok has moved all of its US data to California-based Oracle servers. The company claims that no one in the Chinese government has access to TikTok data in the US.
Anyone looking at the data, however, may have little to assess whether TikTok’s efforts to manage screen time are successful.