Culture

TikTok cuts off DMs for users under 16 and will let parents set screen time limits

If you're under 16 and registered on TikTok, no direct messages for you.

Happy mother and her cute teen daughter are looking at mobile phone while sitting on sofa at home.
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TikTok is trying to crack down on the potential for abuse in its platform's more secluded areas, such as direct messages. The company has announced that it will make the app more family-friendly by disabling direct messages for accounts under the age of 16.

The change takes effect on April 30 and comes alongside a host of other tweaks.

What TikTok says — The company states that it does have certain policies in place for protecting its younger user audience from being exploited and harmed. "With user safety in mind," the statement reads, "we have many policies and controls in place for messaging already – for example, only approved followers can message each other, and we don't allow images or videos to be sent in messages." Restricting access to direct messages is just another step to increase on-platform safety, per TikTok.

Parental mode and screen management time — Well before COVID-19 sparked lockdowns around the world, TikTok enjoyed an insane amount of fame online. But especially after quarantining measures have started at both national and international levels, the short video app has inspired bored users to create countless dance clips, cringe, jokes, and of course, COVID-19 themed memes that look like they were directed by David Lynch.

Why now? — While it is business savvy to keep the kids hooked on the app — Statista reports that the majority, at 37.2 percent of its demographic, falls between the ages of 10 to 19 — TikTok still also has to please the mom and dad crowd. In its company announcement, TikTok declared that it will let parents control how much time their kid spends on the app. They can also limit content.

It could very well be that TikTok indeed cares for its young audience but it's also possible that the company is doing damage control after reports about a suicide stream surfaced along with national security analysts calling the app a political disinformation risk. Whatever the reasoning for this new announcement, it's likely that parents will appreciate tighter control settings for their extremely online kids. As for the kids themselves, maybe not so much.