TikTok announced a new slew of parental controls this week created to help manage teens' screen time with the massively popular social media app.
The new controls combine under a feature called Family Safety Mode. It includes access to Screen Time Management, introduced in April 2019, as well as restrictions on direct messages and certain kinds of content.
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"As part of our commitment to safety, the wellbeing of our users is incredibly important to us," wrote Cormac Kennan, TikTok's head of trust and safety for Europe, the Middle East, and Africa, in a blog post. "We want people to have fun on TikTok, but it's also important for our community to look after their wellbeing which means having a healthy relationship with online apps and services."
Previously any TikTok user could limit their own screen time, but now parents have the power to cap the amount of hours their kids spend scrolling on TikTok.
And to parents, these new screen time and content restrictions might sound splendid, if not overdue: Perhaps you can finally get your teen's attention at the dinner table. Or get some peace of mind that they're not falling for TikTok scams, or engaging with otherwise indecent videos and messages.
But how will teens feel? I'm guessing not as thrilled.
One of the 10 most downloaded apps of the last decade (opens in new tab), TikTok is wildly popular among people under 20. But if they feel there's digital manipulation disrupting lip-syncing, memes and other online antics, they might love the platform less.
If it were me (and I'm not that far removed), I'd want my parents to talk to me about what I do on TikTok rather than impede my experience with physical barriers. If there's concern about my screen time, I'd prefer a conversation about my overall phone usage to specifically targeting what's likely my favorite app.
Parents, if you're concerned about what your teen is doing on TikTok, ask them.
Initiate conversations with your children about navigating new technologies and social media on a regular basis. You may not be able to monitor your kid's digital presence, but you can encourage open communication and teach them what's appropriate to engage with online.