Even TikTok agrees that teens and tweens spend too much time on TikTok and now, somewhat surprisingly, the popular social media platform is doing something about it.
The company reports this in a blog post on Wednesday (opens in new tab) another attempt to help young people manage their time on TikTok on some of the best smartphones, though it’s about getting platform members to tell the truth about their age.
Soon, TikTok will set a 60-minute usage limit for all users under the age of 18. However, the prompt will be more of a suggestion as the teen will only need to enter a passcode to extend their time. For those who do and break the 100 minute mark (who doesn’t?), TikTok will soon encourage them to set their own screen time limit for the app.
The rules of use for young people under the age of 13 will be stricter. Once they hit the 60 minute limit, a parent or guardian will need to enter a code to restore access. There is nothing in the announcement about how TikTok verifies the age of its users.
TikTok pairs these new limits with a collection of screen time management tools that it adds to the Family Pairing parental control feature. They include a screen time dashboard and the ability to mute notifications. The latter should help prevent TikTok phone notifications from drawing teens back to the platform.
The moves come just two days before the US celebrates National Unplugging Day (opens in 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 hobbies, screenless bedtime, and face-to-face social interaction.
Whether or not you believe in unplugging, there’s no arguing with the current, surprising trends in screen time, especially among teens and tweens.
A growing problem
Screen time among teens and teens has been growing for years and nearly exploded during the pandemic. Common Sense Media’s 2021 survey reported a 17% spike in media use between 2019 and 2021. A more recent study estimated children’s daily TikTok use at 80 minutes per day. That’s a lot of short videos.
Parents and perhaps some overstimulated teens may welcome some screen time structure, but it’s also worth noting that TikTok’s motives may not be entirely altruistic. The company is under heavy scrutiny from US government officials, many of whom are calling for an outright TikTok ban. However, the concern has nothing to do with too much screen time and everything to do with TikTok’s ties to the Chinese government.
TikTok is still owned by Chinese technology company ByteDance, and many fear that the Chinese government will have unfettered access to TikTok data and therefore all of our activity on the platform. However, TikTok has moved all of its US data to Oracle servers in California. The company claims that no one in the Chinese government has access to US TikTok data.
Looking at the data, there may soon be less to read if TikTok’s screen time management efforts are successful.