According to recent statistics, 41% of TikTok users are between 16 and 24 years of age, but it’s estimated that as much as a third of TikTok users may be 14 and under. Teens (and tons of other people) love using TikTok, and this latter statistic highlights significant privacy and security risks for a vulnerable age group — and the importance of the new TikTok parental controls.
On January 13, 2021, TikTok announced the addition of new privacy safeguards for users under the age of 18, including enhanced default privacy settings, tighter restrictions on who can comment on videos, and which videos can be downloaded. Parents can still use the Family Pairing tool that was released last year to link their account with their teen’s account and monitor their restrictions remotely.
When Family Pairing first launched, it allowed parents to connect to their teen’s account, allowing them to manage screen time, direct messaging, and the restricted mode that moderates the content feed. The Family Pairing feature is designed to be used by parents with children age 13 or older, as the app in the US offers a COPPA-compliant, view-only mode for teens under 13 (known as TikTok for Younger Users).
According to TikTok’s website, these new changes are “aimed at driving higher default standards for user privacy and safety.” The following expanded range of parental controls give parents additional tools and monitoring features to manage their teens’ account and privacy.
New Default Privacy Setting
For kids aged 13-15 the new default setting makes their account “private.” With a private account, the user must approve followers before those users can view their videos. The setting to “suggest your account to others” is also being turned off by default for these users.
Tighter Restrictions on Comment
Parents can now choose to allow “Friends” or “No One” to comment on videos created by users who are ages 13-15; the option for “Everyone” to comment is being removed.
Restrictions to Duet and Stitch
Access to Duet (a video collaboration feature) and Stitch (a video remixing tool) will now be available only for users ages 16 and older. For users aged 16-17, the default setting for who can use their videos within these tools will now be “Friends.”
With the new controls in place, only videos created by users age 16 and older can be downloaded. For users aged 16-17, the default setting for allowing their videos to be downloaded will be turned to “Off,” unless they choose to allow it.
TikTok’s Search Feature
Parents can now turn off their teens’ ability to access the search bar in the app, where they would otherwise be able to search for content, users, hashtags and sounds. This helps prevent kids from stumbling on content that parents may find inappropriate for their teen or child.
Controlling “Liked” Videos Visibility
Parents can also choose to now turn on or off the ability for other users to see the teen’s “Liked Videos” on their profile. And they can limit who is allowed to comment on their teen’s videos by selecting either “Everyone,” “Friends” or “No One.”
Setting Teen’s Account to “Private”
Lastly, parents can switch their teens’ account from public to private. The latter would limit discoverability to just those people the teen knows and approves. A private account makes sense for a minor child, of course, but teens often turn their account to public in the hopes of gaining more views for their videos or going viral. However, being so public with their account can also expose them — or have their videos exposed — to inappropriate audience.
Though the initial thought is that these parental controls block out creepers, they also limit access to cyberbullies, bad influences, or risky viral challenges.
The new TikTok parental controls have rolled out to all users worldwide. Most of these changes can still be manually changed to make a user’s account more publicly accessible. Families can choose which parental controls make the most sense for their teens, and for how long.
However, the most important, long-term safeguard parents can employ is talking with their teens about making deliberate choices to protect their own privacy.