TikTok announced on Wednesday that the social media company would establish a default one-hour time limit for minor users in an effort to reduce young people’s time on the platform.
The announcement comes as TikTok, owned by Chinese technology company ByteDance, faces scrutiny for negative effects on children and national security concerns. TikTok said in a statement that every user younger than 18 years old will be subject to a default 60-minute daily screen time limit, after which “teens will be prompted to enter a passcode to continue watching, requiring them to make an active decision to extend that time.”
TikTok will also encourage young users to create a daily screen time limit if they spend more than 100 minutes on the platform each day. Parents and guardians will be permitted to more easily view screen time on a dashboard and customize daily limits for their children based on school schedules, holiday breaks, and other commitments. “Every teen is different, and so is every family. That’s why we remain focused on reaching parents with the information they need about TikTok,” the company said. “We hope these features will continue to help families establish an ongoing dialogue about safety and well-being in our digital world.”
Republican and Democratic lawmakers have floated nationwide prohibitions on TikTok for government employees and the general population. Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-WI) called the application “digital fentanyl” last year, a reference to the addictive properties of the limitless stream of vertical videos offered by the platform. Children and teenagers spent an average of 99 minutes per day on TikTok as of 2021, far exceeding the amount of time spent on YouTube and other social media platforms, according to data from Qustodio.
American officials have also noted that Chinese authorities seem to understand the effects of TikTok: children under 14 years old who use Douyin, the version of TikTok available in China, are only permitted 40 minutes of screen time each day and cannot access the platform at night, according to an announcement from ByteDance issued two years ago.
Beyond the prohibition of TikTok on federal devices issued by President Joe Biden and similar actions from several state governments, lawmakers have urged regulators and companies to limit access to the platform: Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO) recently urged Apple and Google to remove TikTok from their app stores over national security concerns, while Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Sen. Jerry Moran (R-KS) asked Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen to force ByteDance to divest from TikTok.
Lawmakers often note how ByteDance admitted at the end of last year that staff members have “spied on the private data of journalists and others in order identify sources behind articles critical of the company.” The revelation confirmed an earlier report from Forbes which indicated that ByteDance planned to track the location of specific American citizens.
Renewed controversy over TikTok also occurs after at least one Chinese surveillance balloon recently traversed the continental United States. The vessel crossed Montana, the location of many defense assets and missile silos, then traveled over states such as Kansas and Missouri before the object was shot down by the American military off the coast of the Carolinas. The balloon was reportedly one of several deployed over military sites across the planet.