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TikTok will launch 60 minute daily limit for users under 18

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TikTok, the popular Chinese-owned video sharing app, announced on Wednesday that it will implement a default 60-minute daily screen time limit for every account held by a user under the age of 18. The changes, which are expected to take effect in the coming weeks, come at a time when concerns about TikTok’s security and ability to manipulate its algorithm to push certain posts are on the rise.

The new screen time limit for minors mirrors the gaming rules imposed on minors in China. Chinese authorities introduced new rules in 2021 that prohibit minors from playing online games for more than an hour a day and only on Fridays, weekends, and public holidays to curb internet addiction.

According to the Pew Research Center, about two-thirds of American teens use TikTok. Families have been struggling to limit the amount of time their children spend on the app. To address this issue, Cormac Keenan, head of trust and safety at TikTok, said in a blog post that when the 60-minute limit is reached, minors will be prompted to enter a passcode and make an “active decision” to continue watching. For accounts where the user is under 13, a parent or guardian will have to set or enter an existing passcode to allow an additional 30 minutes of viewing time once the initial 60-minute limit is reached.

TikTok arrived at the 60-minute threshold by consulting academic research and experts from the Digital Wellness Lab at Boston Children’s Hospital. The app has been under scrutiny for some time due to concerns about what minors are exposed to on social media and the potential harm it might cause. A report released in late 2022 suggested that TikTok’s algorithms promote videos about self-harm and eating disorders to vulnerable teens. Instagram, owned by Facebook parent Meta, has faced similar accusations.

TikTok will also start prompting teens to set a daily screen time limit if they opt-out of the 60-minute default. The company will send weekly inbox notifications to teen accounts with a screen time recap.

The app has taken other measures to ensure the safety of its users. For example, accounts set to private by default for users aged 13-15 and direct messaging availability is only provided to accounts where the user is 16 or older.

TikTok also announced other changes for all users, including the ability to set customized screen time limits for each day of the week and allowing users to set a schedule to mute notifications. The company is launching a sleep reminder to help people plan when they want to be offline at night. For the sleep feature, users will be able to set a time, and when the time arrives, a pop-up will remind the user that it’s time to log off.

Despite these changes, concerns about TikTok’s safety and the potential harm it may cause have led to bans on the app in various parts of the world. The European Parliament, the European Commission, and the EU Council have banned TikTok from being installed on official devices, while the U.S. federal government, Congress, and more than half of the 50 U.S. states have taken similar actions. Canada has also banned the app from government devices.

House republicans are pushing a bill that would give President Joe Biden the power to ban the app nationwide. The legislation passed the Republican-controlled House Foreign Affairs Committee on Wednesday, but some civil liberties organizations have opposed the move, arguing that it would be unconstitutional. The bill must still be voted on by the floor of the House and Senate.

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