Amid growing calls for bans over its algorithms and data collection practices, the popular video-sharing social media network TikTok has announced measures aimed at reducing the screen time of users under 18.

In an announcement made Wednesday morning, TikTok head of trust and safety Cormac Keenan said the change would be happening in the near future.

"In the coming weeks, every account belonging to a user below age 18 will automatically be set to a 60-minute daily screen time limit," Keenan said in the announcement on TikTok's site. "While there's no collectively-endorsed position on the 'right' amount of screen time or even the impact of screen time more broadly, we consulted the current academic research and experts from the Digital Wellness Lab at Boston Children's Hospital in choosing this limit."

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The app will also allow "Caregivers" - parents and guardians of those under 18 - the ability to further set time limits through a "family pairing" feature.

The move comes as social media companies face intense scrutiny over their influence on teens. One federal lawsuit, filed in January, alleges that the companies can be held legally responsible for the harm they cause to younger users.

The new screentime controls TikTok will be implementing include:

  • Custom daily screen time limits: Caregivers will be able to use Family Pairing to customize the daily screen time limit for their teen – including choosing different time limits depending on the day of the week – giving families more choices to match screen time to school schedules, holiday breaks, or family travel.
  • Screen time dashboard: We're bringing our screen time dashboard to Family Pairing, which provides summaries of time on the app, the number of times TikTok was opened, and a breakdown of total time spent during the day and night. From our recent research, we know screen time is one of the topics parents most frequently discuss with their teens, and we want to support caregivers with relevant information to help them guide their teens.
  • Mute notifications: Notifications help us stay connected, but there are times when it's important to be uninterrupted. We're introducing a new setting that enables parents to set a schedule to mute notifications for their teen. Accounts aged 13-15 already do not receive push notifications from 9pm and accounts aged 16-17 have push notifications disabled from 10pm.
TikTok announces screen time limiting tools for families.
Credit: TikTok

TikTok Bans

But, screen time isn't the only issue TikTok faces. Multiple state government agencies, including in Louisiana, have banned the social media app from government-issued devices after multiple reports on the amount of data the app captures, and the possibility that the Chinese government has access to all of it.

ByteDance, the parent company of TikTok, has repeatedly denied that the Chinese government can easily access its data, but that hasn't stopped the U.S. government from warning it was possible.

The data collection is just part of the problem. The way the data is used to target specific people and allow algorithms to put controversial content before users is also a major concern.

Recent waves of stolen vehicles can be traced back to a popular TikTok trend that showed users how to steal certain models of Kia and Hyundai vehicles. That trend has actually led to companies like State Farm to declare they would not be writing insurance policies for certain models of those vehicles.

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