TikTok Adds a Family Safety Mode in U.K., Other European Markets to Follow

Parents in the U.S. already have the option of a limited app experience for kids under 13

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Parents can limit who can send DMs to their kids’ accounts or turn the capability off altogether. TikTok
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Video sharing application TikTok rolled out a new Family Safety Mode in the U.K. Wednesday, with plans to extend it to other markets in Europe in the coming weeks.

Family Safety Mode links the accounts of teens with those of their parents, giving the latter control over the app’s digital wellbeing features.

In the U.S., parents of kids under the age of 13 can opt for TikTok for Younger Users, a limited app experience that allows those kids to view videos curated for their age group, but not to share videos, comment on videos, message with other users or have profiles or followers.

TikTok also released updated terms of service in January, adding a long list of prohibited content related to minors, including child abuse, child nudity, sexual exploitation, underage delinquent behavior (such as use of drugs, alcohol or tobacco) and grooming behavior (an adult building an emotional relationship with a minor to gain their trust for the purposes of sexual abuse, sexual exploitation or sexual trafficking).

And the company implemented a policy change last December, limiting the ability to purchase, send or receive virtual gifts to users 18 and older.

TikTok’s parent company, China’s ByteDance, was hit with a $5.7 million fine by the Federal Trade Commission last February for violations by its predecessor, Musical.ly, which ByteDance acquired in November 2017 and shuttered in August 2018.

The FTC alleged that Musical.ly violated the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) by collecting personal information from children under 13 without parental consent.

TikTok head of trust and safety for Europe, the Middle East and Africa Cormac Keenan said in a blog post introducing the new features, “When people use TikTok, we know they expect an experience that is fun, authentic and safe. As part of our ongoing commitment to providing users with features and resources to have the best experience on TikTok, we are announcing Family Safety Mode, a new feature to help parents and guardians keep their teens safe on TikTok.”

As part of Wednesday’s update in the U.K., the screen time management tool TikTok introduced last April was extended to feed, enabling parents to control how much time their teens can spend on the app each day.

TikTok teamed up with popular creators including Alan Chikin Chow, Gabe Erwin, James Henry and Cosette Rinab to create a series of You’re in Control safety videos encouraging users to monitor their screen time.

@tiktoktips

Take a phone break and make some memories!

♬ original sound - tiktoktips
@tiktoktips

Control how much time you can spend online. ????

♬ original sound - tiktoktips
@tiktoktips

Pause your scrolling. Time for a night time snack break!

♬ original sound - tiktoktips
@tiktoktips

Wait a minute! When was the last time you went outside?

♬ original sound - tiktoktips

Parents can also limit who can send direct messages to their kids’ accounts or turn the capability off altogether.

Finally, parents can restrict the appearance of content that may not be suitable for all ages.

A spokesperson for the company said, “One of our highest priorities at TikTok is to keep our community safe. Family Safety Mode on TikTok is available in some of our European markets. In the U.S., we have a limited experience for younger users that incorporates additional safety and privacy protections designed specifically for this audience, and we recently released in-feed screen time reminders to help our users manage their digital time. For teens and parents, we offer a number of in-app controls like privacy settings and comment controls, as well as a restricted viewing mode. We also provide educational resources in our Safety Center including our Safety Videos, Top 10 Tips for Parents and a Parental Guide, among others. In addition, we are working with organizations like ConnectSafely and the Family Online Safety Institute to create resources to help families manage their experience.”


david.cohen@adweek.com David Cohen is editor of Adweek's Social Pro Daily.
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