The Margin: TikTok’s new screen-time restrict for teenagers: The way it works, and easy methods to get round it
So much for teens spending hours scrolling through 10-second videos: TikTok wants to limit how much time young people spend on TikTok each day.
The social-media platform, whose parent is the Chinese-controlled ByteDance, says it will debut a new 60-minute daily screen-time limit for minors in the coming weeks, which is intended to “help teens manage their time on TikTok,” according to a company blog post on Wednesday. This change comes on the heels of several U.S. federal agencies joining international public entities in banning the app from government devices over security concerns.
See: U.S. and Canada are purging TikTok from government devices. India, Pakistan and Afghanistan took steps sooner.
So here is what you need to know about TikTok’s new policy, and why the popular video-sharing app has drawn so much controversy.
Who is impacted by TikTok’s new screen-time limit?
The accounts of all TikTok users under 18 will be automatically set to the company’s new 60-minute daily limit in the coming weeks.
“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,” TikTok’s head of trust and safety, Cormac Keenan, explained in the company blog post. “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.”
Will this change happen automatically?
Yes. The new policy, which will be rolled out “in the coming weeks,” the company said, will be automatically applied to all the accounts belonging to users under 18 years old.
Can you turn it off?
Yes. Users between the ages of 14 and 17 can go into their settings and turn off this time limit if they choose to do so. But even if the default feature is turned off, the user will be prompted to set their own daily limit once they spend more than 100 minutes (an hour and 40 minutes) on TikTok in a day.
“This builds on a prompt we rolled out last year to encourage teens to enable screen time management; our tests found this helped increase the use of our screen time tools by 234%,” the blog post said. “In addition, we’ll send every teen account a weekly inbox notification with a recap of their screen time.”
Why the 60-minute limit?
TikTok’s head of trust and safety, Cormac Keenan, noted that “there’s no collectively-endorsed position on the ‘right’ amount of screen time or even the impact of screen time more broadly,” in the blog post rolling out the upcoming change. But he explained that the app drew on current academic research and consulted with experts from the Digital Wellness Lab at Boston Children’s Hospital in choosing this limit.
The company says these new changes aim to get people to start talking about their “digital well-being.”
Members of Generation Z (generally defined as anyone born from 1997 onward) spend more time online than most other age groups, including millennials, studies show. According to a 2022 report from Statista, Gen Z spends an average of three hours on social media a day alone, compared with 2.25 hours for millennials.
And TikTok is the most popular social-media platform for Gen Z, outpacing the Meta-owned
Instagram as well as Twitter and Snapchat
In addition to teens, users who are above 18 will soon have the ability to add their personalized screen time limits, if they want, within the app. Operating systems on top phone brands like Apple
also allow for users to set app device-specific limits.
Do other social-media companies have limits?
As recently as 2022, Instagram had daily time limits for its app that users could set up themselves, but it has since removed the feature, according to a report by TechCrunch.
Snapchat has its own version of time limits within its parental-control features, and so does the Alphabet-owned YouTube.
Why are some U.S. federal offices and international governments banning TikTok?
The news from TikTok comes as the European Parliament, the European Commission and the EU Council have banned TikTok, whose Chinese-owned parent company ByteDance Ltd. has taken the step of moving its headquarters to Singapore, from being installed on official devices. This abundance of cautions comes over cybersecurity concerns, particularly regarding data protection and the collection of data by third parties.
Don’t miss: Booting TikTok from government devices shows the U.S. is ‘unsure of itself,’ claims Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson
Several U.S. federal agencies have banned TikTok on all government devices, as well, and more than half of all U.S. states have banned TikTok from government-issued mobile devices. Canada has also banned the app from government devices.
The move comes amid broader concerns about spying and potential data theft from China. China’s government responded by saying the move reflected the United States’ own doubts about its place in the world.