A third of US TikTok users are reportedly 14 or younger

Some videos from children younger than 13 may have remained on the video app for weeks, The New York Times reports.

TikTok can estimate its users' ages by applying facial recognition algorithms to videos and profile pictures, says The New York Times.
Angela Lang/CNET

Up to a third of TikTok's 49 million daily users in the US are 14 years old or younger, according to a Friday report by The New York Times, which cited internal TikTok data and documents. In July, 18 million of the short-video app's daily users were 14 or younger, 20 million were older and the ages of the rest couldn't be classified, the Times said. 

Chinese-owned short-video app TikTok has been in a state of flux since US President Donald Trump signed an executive order that would effectively ban it in the states. Microsoft has said it's looking at buying TikTok before the ban kicks in next month.

In addition to using people's self-reported ages, TikTok estimates ages by applying facial recognition algorithms to videos and profile pictures and by analyzing social connections to users whose ages are already known, the Times reported, anonymously citing two ex-TikTok employees and one current employee.

Even though the minimum age for using the app is 13, a former TikTok worker reportedly noted that videos from children younger than that stayed on the app for weeks.

"We're proud to provide a fun place for families to create content and spend time together, particularly during the pandemic," a TikTok spokesperson told CNET in an emailed response to a request for comment on the Times report. 

The spokesperson said TikTok doesn't disclose user demographics. "We're committed to protecting the privacy and safety of the people and families who come to TikTok for entertainment, self-expression and connection," the spokesperson said.