TikTok bans under-16s from sending and receiving direct messages and introduces new parental control options

TikTok with pink background

TikTok has introduced a raft of new safety measures designed to protect younger users. As well as introducing new options that give parents even more control over their children's account, the company is also implementing a complete ban on direct messaging for those under the age of 16.

The changes are being tenuously linked to the coronavirus pandemic, with TikTok saying that the spread of COVID-19 has accelerated the flow of families moving to the platform for entertainment. The company says that it is adding new parental control features to help ensure a safer experience for users.

The direct messaging policy will kick in on a global basis at the end of the month, but it's not clear how the platform will police users lying about their age to get around the new restrictions. The change means that younger TikTok users will no longer have the option of communicating privately with one another, and it remains to be seen how much of a turn-off this is, and whether users will switch allegiances and jump to rival platforms.

But this is not the only change that is coming; key new features are being added to parental controls, including Family Pairing, which allows parents and teens to customize their safety settings based on individual needs.

In a post about the changes, TikTok outlines the new options and restrictions:

  • Screen Time Management: Control how long your teen can spend on TikTok each day. In addition, TikTok has partnered with top creators to make short videos that appear right in the app and encourage users to keep tabs on their screen time. These fun videos use the upbeat tone our users love while offering a suggestion to take a break and do something offline, like read a book.
  • Restricted Mode: Restrict the appearance of content that may not be appropriate for all audiences. Even without Family Pairing enabled, parents can help their teen set Screen Time Management and Restricted Mode by visiting the app's Digital Wellbeing controls at any time.
  • Direct Messages: Limit who can send messages to the connected account, or turn off direct messaging completely. With user safety in mind, 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. Starting April 30, we will be taking those protections one step further as relates to younger members of our community, and automatically disabling Direct Messages for registered accounts under the age of 16.

Image credit: Anna Markina / Shutterstock

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