Just over a year after being fined $5.7 million by the Federal Trade Commission for allegedly collecting personal information from children under the age of 13 without parental consent, TikTok has rolled out new features designed to give parents more control over their children's accounts. A new feature announced earlier this week will give parents a way to set restrictions on their kids' TikTok profiles from within their own account.
In an effort to advance the company's commitment to user safety, TikTok announced plans to roll out a new feature called Family Pairing. Through TikTok's Family Pairing feature, parents will be able to customize their children's safety settings by linking their own account to their child's account.
Once linked, parents will then be able to use their own accounts to disable or restrict direct messages on their children's account. The feature also enables parents to limit the amount of time their children can spend on TikTok and block videos and other content that may not be suitable for younger users. The social media network also announced plans to automatically disable the app's direct message function for all accounts registered to users under the age of 16 beginning April 30.
"We are committed to giving parents insight into, and control over, how their teens use TikTok and helping facilitate important conversations within families about the responsible navigation of digital platforms," the company said in a press release detailing its new parental control feature. "We believe these options promote a safer and more trustworthy experience for our users of all ages, but our progress in this area is also never finished."
Here's how parents can set up the Family Pairing, which is expected to be rolling out to users over the coming weeks:
- First, you'll need to have both you and your child's devices opened and logged in to the TikTok app.
- Navigate to the "Digital Wellbeing" section on both devices by selecting the "me" icon and then opening the settings menu by tapping the icon with three dots at the top right of the screen.
- To enable Family Pairing, a parent or guardian must then scan the QR code displayed on their child's account.
Since public health officials have begun to stress the practice of social distancing and some states have enacted stay-at-home orders in light of the coronavirus pandemic, TikTok has reportedly seen a noticeable increase in downloads. TikTok saw a total of 6.2 million U.S. downloads in the first 23 days of March, a 27% increase compared to the 4.9 million downloads seen in the first 23 days of February, according to Music Business Worldwide.
While TikTok's new Family Pairing feature puts more control directly into the hands of parents (as opposed to previous features, which required parents to either obtain access to their child's account in order to set limits or trust their kid to do it themselves when asked), some features have yet to be thoroughly explained. For example, it's unclear how the app's Restricted Mode, which aims to filter out inappropriate content, will function.
TechCrunch has hypothesized the feature will be largely based on other users flagging videos as inappropriate as opposed to how parents might set an age range for content on video streaming platforms like Netflix. "In other words, some inappropriate content or more adult material could slip through," TechCrunch cautioned.
Despite that, TikTok's new parental controls have been applauded by parent associations. "National PTA applauds TikTok for listening to parents' needs, expanding its age-based features, and creating Family Pairing," executive director of the National PTA, Nathan R. Monell, said in a statement shared by TikTok. "Supports like these will give families a greater sense of confidence and comfort, and will help them guide their teens to make good decisions online."