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TikTok sets a new default screen-time limit for teen users

TikTok announced new restrictions this week meant to help teen users reduce their screen time.
Dan Kitwood
Getty Images
TikTok announced new restrictions this week meant to help teen users reduce their screen time.

The tech giant TikTok has announced new safeguards for teen users as social media companies face growing calls to better protect young people online.

The changes are meant to help teens limit their screen time and be more intentional about how much of their day they spend on TikTok, the company said on Wednesday.

"We believe digital experiences should bring joy and play a positive role in how people express themselves, discover ideas, and connect," said Cormac Keenan, TikTok's head of trust and safety.

The explosion of social media in the past two decades has contributed to a mental health crisis among young people, experts say. Depression rates are surging, and a third of teen girls reported considering suicide in 2021. Research also has shown that limiting screen time can make young people feel better about themselves.

TikTok users under 18 will now automatically have a 60-minute daily screen time limit. They can continue using the app if they enter a passcode, but the company says that forces users to "make an active decision to extend that time."

Users under 13 will also have a 60-minute daily limit, and a parent or guardian can enter a passcode that extends their daily usage for another half hour.

TikTok will send every teen account a weekly recap of their screen time, and it will also prompt teen users who spend more than 100 minutes on the app to set a daily limit.

The company said it settled on the 60-minute default limit after consulting academic research and experts from the Digital Wellness Lab at Boston Children's Hospital, though Keenan added that "there's no collectively-endorsed position on the 'right' amount of screen time or even the impact of screen time more broadly."

In addition to issues of safety for young users, TikTok – whose parent company, ByteDance, is based in Beijing – also continues to face questions about whether its user data is safe from officials in China. TikTok has denied sharing data with the Chinese government.

The White House said this week it was giving federal agencies 30 days to delete TikTok from government devices, and Canada and the European Parliament recently instituted similar bans.
Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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Joe Hernandez