TikTok has announced a batch of new features intended to reduce screen time and improve the well-being of its younger users.
In the coming weeks, a daily screen time limit of 60 minutes will be automatically applied to every TikTok user under 18 years old. Teens that hit this limit will be asked to enter a passcode to continue watching. They can disable the feature entirely, but if they do so and spend more than 100 minutes on TikTok a day, they’ll be prompted to set a new limit.
TikTok claims these prompts increased the use of its screen time management tools by 234 percent during the feature’s first month of testing. Teens will also be sent an inbox notification each week that recaps their screen time, allowing younger users to be aware of how much time they spend on the app and requiring that they make active decisions to extend the recommended screen time. These weekly updates are available now, alongside prompts to encourage teens to use screen time tools.
The changes seem 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 when deciding how long the time restriction should be.
“While there’s no collectively-endorsed position on how much screen time is ‘too much’, or even the impact of screen time more broadly, we recognize that teens typically require extra support as they start to explore the online world independently,” said Cormac Keenan, Head of Trust and Safety at TikTok, in a statement.
The 60 minute time limit will also apply to children under the age of 13 using the “TikTok for Younger Users” limited app experience. In this instance, a parent or guardian will need to set or enter an existing passcode to enable 30 minutes of additional watch time on the account if the screen time limit is reached.
Four new features are also being added to Family Pairing, TikTok’s customizable parental controls that allow a parent or guardian to link their TikTok account to 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 over school holidays).
New features for Family Pairing provide a screen time dashboard for parents and the ability to mute TikTok notifications on their childs device.
Family Pairing will also grant access to TikTok’s screen time dashboard that summarizes how much time a child has spent on the app, how often it was opened, and a breakdown detailing how much time was spent during the day and night. A new “Mute Notifications” setting will soon allow parents to set a schedule to mute app notifications on their children’s accounts. Push notifications are already muted automatically from 9PM for users between 13 and 15 years old, while 16-17 year-olds have push notifications disabled from 10PM.
Finally, TikTok says it’s developing new content controls that will allow caregivers to filter videos with words or hashtags they don’t want their children to watch. The company is working with “parenting, youth, and civil society organizations” over the coming weeks to design the feature.
Outside of Family Pairing, TikTok said that some of these improvements will be made widely available, allowing any user to schedule mute notifications and set customized screen time limits for each day of the week. A sleep reminder is also now available that allows users to set a time to be reminded to close the app and go to bed.
TikTok spokesperson Mahsau Cullinane informed The Verge that the new default screen time limit for teens, customizable daily time limits, Mute Notifications feature, and all Family Pairing improvements will roll out over the coming weeks.
Update, March 1st, 2023, 11:40AM ET: Article updated with a feature release timeline from TikTok.