TikTok Sets a One-Hour Time Limit for Teens Under 18
TikTok can be a time suck for adults, but it's trickier for teens. The company has started restricting users under 18 with a one-hour time limit.
The old saying used to be “time flies when you’re having fun,” but if you’ve ever been on TikTok, you know that “time really flies when you’re on TikTok.” There are some dangers of TikTok (beyond it hijacking your attention span!) and it’s good to be aware of things like online security and who can see your TikToks.
As an adult, it’s easy to get swept up in learning about viral trends like slugging for your skin and hair or #cleantok hacks for grout or your car. If you want to learn the latest viral meal or dance, TikTok is there for you (perhaps too much). Adults also use it for learning, and a Pew Research survey showed that in 2022, a third of adult TikTok users regularly got their news from the app, up 22% from 2020.
TikTok is the top online platform for teens, with “16% of all teens saying they use it almost constantly.” When asked to reflect on their time spent on social media, most teens (55%) say they’re OK with their usage and a third (36%) say they spend too much time on the platforms. Fifty-four percent say it would be somewhat hard to give up social media—but now TikTok is stepping in to curb the enthusiasm: on Wednesday the company announced a one-hour time limit for teens under 18.
What is the new TikTok time limit for teens?
TikTok’s new time limit for teens under 18 isn’t quite as strict as it sounds. Once the user has been on TikTok for 60 minutes they won’t be locked out, but they’ll be prompted to enter a passcode so they will have to make an intentional decision to continue. For teens 13 and under, a parent or guardian will have to enter a password to give them an additional 30 minutes on the site.
TikTok started rolling this out on March 1, and over the next few weeks, all accounts registered to users under 18 will automatically be set to the 60-minute daily screen time limit.
Why is TikTok doing this?
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When figuring out the right limit, TikTok consulted with the Digital Wellness Lab at Boston Children’s Hospital. There’s no “right” amount of time to spend on screens, but Cormac Keenan, TikTok’s Head of Trust and Safety, believes that “digital experiences should bring joy and play a positive role in how people express themselves, discover ideas and connect.”
With an awareness that too much time on screens takes away from connecting with people face-to-face, the company decided to set a one-hour time limit for every account belonging to someone 18 or younger.
Cathy Pedrayes is known as TikTok’s “Mom Friend,” and she offers tips on everything from how to treat eye punctures and diabetic emergencies to how to keep your kids safe online. She’s even worked with TikTok on family safety social media campaigns. Pedrayes says the time limits are the company’s response regarding concerns that the app and social media apps, in general, are having a negative effect on its young users. She agrees with the time limit but says parents have to be involved.
“Parents still need to be involved in what their children are doing online and have open and frequent conversations with them about how to navigate the digital world safely,” Pedrayes says. “That said, the time limit isn’t a fail-safe, and it’s easy to bypass, so parents still need to be involved in what their kids are doing online and help them establish smart digital habits. Parents aren’t always going to be around 24/7 to monitor everything.”
- Pew Research Center: Social Media and News Fact Sheet
- Pew Research Center: Teens, Social Media and Technology 2022
- TikTok Newsroom: “New features for teens and families on TikTok”
- Digital Wellness Lab, Boston Children’s Hospital
- Cathy Pedrayes, TikTok’s “Mom Friend”
- TikTok Newsroom: “#BeCyberSmart: TikTok Summertime Safety Tips”