Commentary

TikTok Tries To Placate Worried Parents

From accusations of illegally collecting the data of minors to censoring politically sensitive content, TikTok and its parent company Bytedance have struggled to overcome a slew of bad press.

Yet, continuing to fight back, the Chinese-owned app is taking a number of steps to allay privacy- and content-related fears among regulators and the parents of young users.

That includes a new Family Safety Mode -- a feature designed to help parents and guardians keep their teens safe on the video-sharing app.

TikTok plans to roll out the feature -- now available in the United Kingdom -- globally in the coming weeks and months.

Using Family Safety Mode, parents will be able to link their accounts to those of their teens. After that, parents can control what TikTok is calling “digital wellbeing” features.

That means parents will be able to control how long their teens spend on TikTok each day, who can message their kids on the app, and what sort of content shows up in their feeds.

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The new features are part of a broader effort to support the “wellbeing” of users and their families, according to Cormac Keenan, TikTok’s head of trust and safety in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa.

“The wellbeing of our users is incredibly important to us,” Keenan stated this week.

As part of that effort, TikTok launched a “screen time management” feature, last year, which was supposed to help users set limits for how long they spend on the app.

This week, TikTok is launching the feature “in feed,” meaning that users can expect to start seeing in-feed prompts reminding them to take a break from the app.

The prompts are part of TikTok’s “You’re in Control” video series, which stars some of the platform’s more popular content creators talking about user safety.

Whether or not TikTok’s latest effort appease parents and lawmakers remains to be seen.

Some of the content on TikTok is more than concerning. For example, some young users are relying on the app to partake in a Skull Breaker Challenge, which involves tripping people and documenting (and then sharing) their head-first falls to the ground.

Earlier this month, meanwhile, U.K. officials announced their intention to crack down on what they consider to be inappropriate social media content.

Last year, the Federal Trade Commission fined TikTok nearly $6 million for collecting the data of underage users.

Partly in response to such scrutiny, TikTok no longer allows minors to upload their own content or exchange messages through the app. However, they can still view curated content feeds.

Perhaps to placate regulators around the world, Bytedance was reportedly considering selling a stake in TikTok last year.

Among other threats, Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) requested that U.S. intelligence officials assess TikTok’s U.S. presence, late last year.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Florida) also called for a formal investigation into the app, and the degree to which it is censoring politically sensitive content, last year.

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