Chinese social media company TikTok has announced a new default screen time limit for underage users, which will help teens to “manage their time.”
The announcement was made this week, and will mean that all users under 18 who create a TikTok account will have a default limit of one hour to use the app per day. The policy is expected to come into effect in the coming weeks.
The company clarified that there will still be an option to continue using the app past the one hour limit. However, they will have to enter a passcode, “requiring them to make an active decision to extend that time” according to a statement.
This is presumably to prevent endless hours being lost by absent-mindedly scrolling through videos on autopilot for long periods of time.
“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,” said Cormac Keenan, head of Trust and Safety at TikTok.
He also added that the new policy will send teen accounts a weekly recap of their screen time, so that they can keep track of how much they’re using the app.
The news comes as research seems to indicate that young social media users’ daily screen time has skyrocketed across many apps in recent years.
In 2021, a study from non-profit research group Common Sense Media found that in 2021, children between the ages of 8 and 12 used screens for an average of 5 hours and 33 minutes a day. For teenagers, this rose to an average of 8 hours and 39 minutes a day.
Reacting to the TikTok announcement, Common Sense Media founder and CEO James P. Steyer welcomed the move, but argued that more should also be done.
“New features, particularly the screen time limits, are definitely a positive step to create a safer space for teens and families, but TikTok also needs to go further,” he said.
“TikTok continues to capture users’ personal data and often nudges teens toward harmful content that can expose them to drugs, eating disorders, violence and more.”
He added: “The nation’s youth mental health crisis is rampant, and all social media companies need to make teens’ well-being a priority, not merely an afterthought.”