TikTok announced Wednesday that many teenage users will now be limited to 60 minutes of screentime — that is, until they enter a passcode to bypass the feature and continue scrolling.
TikTok limits teens to one hour of screentime, but leaves loopholes
The plan will not limit kids to a strict period of screentime — besides entering the passcode, users on social media have been known to alter their ages to avoid features meant for kids.
Still, TikTok said similar reminders have been shown to spur users to try to take control of their screentime.
“So we’re also prompting teens to set a daily screen time limit if they opt out of the 60-minute default and spend more than 100 minutes on TikTok in a day,” the company said.
The move comes as TikTok has been under significant political pressure in the United States as lawmakers from both parties have raised concerns about its security and ties to China — TikTok is owned by Chinese parent company ByteDance. Lawmakers have expressed concern that the app could pose a national security concern, suggesting that TikTok’s ownership leaves the app open to surveillance and censorship.
TikTok has said such concerns are based on “misrepresentations,” and it has launched a charm offensive in Washington in an attempt to persuade lawmakers it is trustworthy.
TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew told The Washington Post in an exclusive interview last month that the Chinese government has never asked for U.S. user data and that, “even if they did, we believe we don’t have to give it to them because U.S. user data is subject to U.S. law.”
This week, the White House said federal agencies had 30 days to make sure the device had been removed from federal devices, and Canada said it would also ban the app from government-issued phones.
Chew is slated to testify in the House on March 23, the first time the company’s CEO will appear on Capitol Hill, where a growing number of lawmakers have been pushing to ban the app entirely in the U.S.
Screentime has for years been a focus of lawmakers and advocacy groups who are concerned about the hold social media has on users, and especially on kids. Social media companies have tried for years to quell these concerns by adding screentime management features and reminders, but many experts say they don’t go far enough.
Some experts say that the impact of social media on kids’ mental health isn’t fully understood, but others say it has demonstrable effects.
Last month, big tech critic Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) introduced a bill to require companies to verify all users are over 16 before letting them use the sites.
In Wednesday’s announcement, TikTok said parents or guardians would have to set a passcode to bypass the screentime limit for users on the app who are under 13. Those accounts already have limited features and cannot comment on other’s videos or send messages.
Cristiano Lima and Tatum Hunter contributed to this report.