Serious concerns that Chinese-owned TikTok serves as a data collection point for the Chinese Communist Party resulted in Congress passing legislation in December banning the social media app from federal government devices and systems — and there are ongoing efforts in Congress to ban the social media platform altogether.
FBI Director Christopher Wray said in November the bureau has “national security concerns” about whether the Chinese government could use TikTok “to control data collection on millions of users.”
It’s against that backdrop that TikTok announced on Wednesday that it will limit screen time for teens to an hour a day — this potentially being an ambitious campaign to get parents on their side.
“We believe digital experiences should bring joy and play a positive role in how people express themselves, discover ideas, and connect,” Cormac Keenan, TikTok’s head of trust and safety, said in a statement. “We’re improving our screen time tool with more custom options, introducing new default settings for teen accounts, and expanding Family Pairing with more parental controls.”
“In the coming weeks, every account belonging to a user below age 18 will automatically be set to a 60-minute daily screen time limit. While there’s no collectively-endorsed position on the ‘right’ amount of screen time or even the impact of screen time more broadly, we consulted the current academic research and experts from the Digital Wellness Lab at Boston Children’s Hospital in choosing this limit,” the release noted. “If the 60-minute limit is reached, teens will be prompted to enter a passcode in order to continue watching, requiring them to make an active decision to extend that time.
“For people in our under 13 experience, the daily screen time limit will also be set to 60 minutes, and a parent or guardian will need to set or enter an existing passcode to enable 30 minutes of additional watch time.”
The company also announced new features to Family Pairing, referring to parents and/or caregivers as “one of our most important partners.”
Custom daily screen time limits: Caregivers will be able to use Family Pairing to customize the daily screen time limit for their teen – including choosing different time limits depending on the day of the week – giving families more choices to match screen time to school schedules, holiday breaks, or family travel.
Screen time dashboard: We’re bringing our screen time dashboard to Family Pairing, which provides summaries of time on the app, the number of times TikTok was opened, and a breakdown of total time spent during the day and night. From our recent research, we know screen time is one of the topics parents most frequently discuss with their teens, and we want to support caregivers with relevant information to help them guide their teens.
Mute notifications: Notifications help us stay connected, but there are times when it’s important to be uninterrupted. We’re introducing a new setting that enables parents to set a schedule to mute notifications for their teen. Accounts aged 13-15 already do not receive push notifications from 9pm and accounts aged 16-17 have push notifications disabled from 10pm.
Adding to TikTok’s growing problems is the fallout over any number of potentially deadly “challenges” circulating on the app, which have resulted in deaths and lawsuits.
A quick scan of social media shows a lot of confusion over how the process will work and plenty of skeptics about the enforcement of the screen time limit and other changes.
Here’s a quick sampling of responses to the story from Twitter:
All they have to do is lie about their age Lmao
— felixb92 (@felixbe54584201) March 1, 2023
..after reaching the 60 min limit, teens will be prompted to enter a passcode (they create themselves)- reminding them they are making an active decision to continue. So, a nothingburger.
— Fuzzyknucklez (@Fuzzyknuckles2) March 1, 2023
Can they include my wife? She on that app all day all night!
— Marcro (@Marcro_Strategi) March 1, 2023
They can switch off the setting at any time without changing their age. It’s like dark/light mode. Nothing more than a PR stunt so they can say they’re making an effort.
— Ross McLeod (@mqleod) March 1, 2023
JUST IN: record spike in 19yr old signups!
— Korben (@Dallas_Korben_) March 1, 2023
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