TikTok users under 18 will have their daily limit set automatically.
TikTok said Wednesday that it wants teens to be more aware of the time they spend on the popular app for short-form videos.
The tech company said it'll set screen time limits for teens by default and release new features so parents have more control over their children's use of social media.
TikTok users under 18 years old will have their screen time limit automatically set to 60 minutes. The short-form video app said this default screen time will apply to new and existing accounts that haven't already used this tool. Teens can turn off this setting, but if they do so and spend more than 100 minutes on the app in a day, TikTok will prompt them to set a daily screen time limit. TikTok will also set a 60-minute limit by default for people under 13 years old who use a version of the app meant for younger users.
TikTok has been adding more parental controls as lawmakers, child advocacy groups and others raise concerns about how social media apps can harm the mental health of teens. Younger users are spending more of their time on apps such as TikTok. TikTok recommends videos based on what the platform thinks users are interested in, so people can sometimes find themselves mindlessly scrolling down a rabbit hole of videos for hours. Researchers at the Center for Countering Digital Hate found that TikTok, has recommended self-harm and eating disorder content to users. Teens also struggle to avoid seeing harmful videos on TikTok.
Social media apps have been releasing more parental controls and safety settings, but getting people to use these features can be tough. Setting a default screen time limit could entice more users to try out the feature. TikTok said when it tested the default setting that usage of these tools jumped by 235%.
The company said it looked at academic research and consulted with experts at the Digital Wellness Lab at Boston Children's Hospital to come up with the default screen time limit for teens.
"While there's no collectively-endorsed position on how much screen time is 'too much', or even the impact of screen time more broadly, we recognize that teens typically require extra support as they start to explore the online world independently," TikTok's head of trust and safety, Cormac Keenan, said in a blog post.
TikTok is also releasing more parental controls, including a way for parents to filter videos that include words or hashtags they don't want to pop up in their teens' feeds. They'll also be able to mute TikTok notifications at a certain time and set custom screen time limits for their teens. Everyone on TikTok will also be able to set custom screen time limits and schedule a time to mute notifications. Previously, TikTok users were only able to set daily screen time limits to 40, 60, 90 or 120 minutes.
The American Academy of Pediatrics says that children spend an average of seven hours a day on entertainment media, which includes time spent on social media apps. Concerns about social media and consumption of media also go beyond just mental health. The group recommends that families come up with a media plan.
"Today, children are exposed to messages from social media influencers, hidden ads in video games, data collection across many platforms, virtual reality encounters with strangers in games and targeted social media advertisements that are intended to make children take action," the AAP says in its page about media and children. "It's no wonder that parents come to pediatricians with so many questions."