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TikTok is rolling out features to curb screen time and expand parental involvement through family pairing.
TikTok said in a blog post Wednesday that it will begin to automatically set a 60-minute daily screen time limit for users under 18, as well as prompt underage users to set daily limits for themselves if they spend more than 100 minutes on the app.
It is also expanding Family Pairing and will allow parents to filter out certain words and hashtags, set screen time limits and set schedules to mute TikTok notifications.
“It’s not parental control, it’s parental involvement and an opportunity for parents and teens to learn from each other,” says Larry Magid, the president and CEO of the nonprofit privacy group ConnectSafely.
For users under 13, the feature requires parents or other guardians to set and enter passcodes to enable 30 more minutes upon reaching the 60-minute daily screen time limit. TikTok consulted with the Digital Wellness Lab at Boston Children’s Hospital to determine the time limit.
NBC News reports if teens under 18 reach their daily time limits, they must “make an active decision” to extend their screen time by entering passcodes.
Under Family Pairing, caregivers and guardians can set time limits customized to the day of the week — on weekends, for example, an underage user may be able to spend more time on TikTok than on school nights.
In addition to filtering out unwanted keywords and hashtags, the updated Family Pairing feature includes a screen time dashboard, which documents how long a user spent on TikTok and how many times the user opened the app.
House committee votes to make banning TikTok easier
CNN reports a powerful House committee voted to advance legislation on Wednesday that would make it easier to ban TikTok from the United States and crack down on other China-related economic activity, amid vocal objections from some who argue the proposal is unconstitutionally broad and threatens a wide range of online speech.
The legislation — introduced Friday and fast-tracked by Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Michael McCaul — would empower the Biden administration to impose a nationwide TikTok ban under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA).
The bill’s text specifically names TikTok and its parent, ByteDance, and requires President Joe Biden to impose penalties against the companies, up to and potentially including a ban, if the administration determines they may have knowingly transferred TikTok’s user data to “any foreign person” working for or under the influence of the Chinese government.
Beyond privacy concerns, recent reports of mental health struggles among teenagers, especially teen girls, have had advocates expressing concerns over social media’s impact on user self-esteem and loneliness.
Soon, all users will be able to set daily screen time limits and mute notifications regardless of whether they’re using Family Pairing, TikTok said.
The app will also roll out sleep reminders, so that when users reach a selected time of night, a pop-up will remind them to log off.
Isa Watson, author of the new book, Life Beyond Likes: Logging Off Your Screen and Into Your Life, says in part, “The internet and its tools have also become an addiction that we millennials and gen-Zers just cant shake – and it has empowered the creation of passive habits that aren’t all that healthy for us. We look for endless validation from strangers on the internet.”