In an attempt to shore up its public image, Chinese video-sharing app, TikTok, on Wednesday announced that it is set to control the automatic daily screen time for those under 18 to up to 60 minutes.
The app, owned by the Chinese parent company Bydance, is developing a tool that would allow parents to stop their children from accessing content with certain words or hashtags. The move comes as governments worldwide have expressed concerns about the app’s security, and have banned the application from the government staff's devices.
"Today we're announcing new features for teens, families, and our broader community. We believe digital experiences should bring joy and play a positive role in how people express themselves, discover ideas, and connect," TikTok said in an official blog post.
"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," the company added.
The changes, according to TikTok, are being introduced after prior consultation with academic research and experts from the Digital Wellness Lab at Boston Children's Hospital, who helped the app to decide the screen limit settings for teenagers. After the users under 18 years of age reach the 60-minute time limit, they will be prompted to enter a passcode in order to continue watching.
This would imply that the teens made an active decision to extend the screen time and usage of the app. "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," TikTok said in the statement.
Head of TikTok’s trust and safety wing, Cormac Keenan noted in the statement that there is “no collectively-endorsed position” about what potentially could be the impact of the extended screen time for the teenagers. There is no consensus on what the right amount of time on the app is, but academic literature and experts have been consulted with respect to the new rules, he noted.
As per new rules, TikTok would send every teen account a 'weekly inbox notification' with a recap of their screen time. Those aged 13-15 years will have their accounts set to 'private' by default, enabling teens to make their own choices about the content that they share, and customise their audience.