Apr 16, 2020 - Technology

TikTok beefs up parental controls over teens' accounts

A photo illustration of a TikTok logo displayed on a smartphone.
Photo Illustration: Mateusz Slodkowski/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images.

TikTok is offering new ways for parents to control how their teenagers use the popular video-sharing app, according a blog post Thursday.

Why it matters: TikTok is surging in popularity among teens, but with that boost comes additional scrutiny about child safety and privacy measures.

Details: Starting April 30, TikTok will disable direct messages for users under 16. In the coming weeks, the company is also rolling out a new "Family Pairing" tool that will allow parents to link their accounts to their teens' accounts to control:

  • How long their children can spend on TikTok each day.
  • What content their children can see, with the ability to restrict videos that may not be appropriate for younger users.
  • Who can send messages to the account (parents will also be able to fully disable all direct messages for minor children 16 or older).

Under TikTok’s existing terms of service, users must be at least 13 to use the standard version of the app. (TikTok offers a restricted mode for kids 12 and under).

What they're saying: "We believe these options promote a safer and more trustworthy experience for our users of all ages, but our progress in this area is also never finished," TikTok's Jeff Collins, senior director of trust and safety, wrote in the post.

  • The move earned praise from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, which has called on tech companies to do more to protect children online.
  • "We're grateful to TikTok for their leadership in prioritizing safety and education because we believe those efforts are a critical step in helping families safely navigate the online world." NCMEC president John Clark said in a statement.

Go deeper: More younger members of Generation Z use TikTok than Facebook

Editor’s note: This story has been corrected to note that while TikTok's terms of service do bar children under 13 from using the full app, it does offer them a limited "Younger Users" mode.

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