TikTok Increases Safety Measures for Younger Users, Including New Defaults and Prompts for Teens

TikTok is looking to add more protections for younger users, with new restrictions on DMs for teens, and added alerts around specific functions to better indicate who will be able to access their content as a result.

First off, on direct messages – in an effort to further limit potential exposure to unwanted and/or predatory DMs, TikTok will now switch off messages for users aged 16-17 by default. 

As explained by TikTok:

“We want to help teens make active decisions about their privacy settings, so when someone aged 16-17 joins TikTok, their Direct Messaging setting will now be set to ‘No One’ by default. To message others, they will need to actively switch to a different sharing option.”

TikTok also notes that existing accounts of teen users that have never used DMs before will now also receive a prompt asking them to review and confirm their privacy settings when they go to use the feature.

In April last year, TikTok disabled its direct messaging option for all existing accounts of users under the age of 16, and this new update expands on the same. And while teens aged 16+ will still be able to switch them back on, the added friction could limit the misuse of DMs, and the targeting of young users within the app. 

Furthering this, TikTok’s also adding a new pop-up alert, which will be shown to users under the age of 16 within the video upload process, which will ask them to specifically choose who can watch their clip. 

TikTok alert

As you can see here, now, when a younger user goes through the upload flow, they’ll be asked to specifically choose who’ll be able to view it before they post.

“Accounts aged 13-15 are set to private by default, and private accounts can choose to share their content with Followers or Friends, as the ‘Everyone’ setting is turned off. Duet and Stitch are also disabled for accounts under 16.”

The added prompts will ideally help to further restrict unwanted exposure, and at the least, make teens re-think their posting process, which could reduce potential harm.

And finally, TikTok’s also looking to add more context into the upload process for teen users, with alerts on how features like downloads actually work, and who will be able to action such. 

TikTok downloads prompt

That, again, is not a foolproof block as such, but it will increase awareness within the upload flow, and get younger users to consider the exposure potential of their uploads.

The move is the latest in a series of added restrictions that TikTok has put in place to protect younger users. Back in January, TikTok announced a raft of similar features, which included switching all accounts created by users aged 13-15 being set to ‘Private’ by default (13 is the minimum age for TikTok accounts). 

Which is important, because according to internal research published last year, more than a third of the app’s users are under 14 years of age. And given the rising popularity of the platform, the exposure potential for this group is big – and as such, TikTok needs to take steps to provide additional protections, where possible, to avoid potential misuse.

The move also aligns with similar recent updates from Instagram, and other social apps, which is likely connected to the introduction of new regulations in the United Kingdom, focused on teens’ online privacy and wellbeing. 

As reported by Axios, the UK’s proposed Age Appropriate Design Code will see the implementation of new rules around how teen users are protected within online platforms and apps.

As per Axios

“The UK in September will begin enforcing 15 new standards for websites likely to be accessed by users under 18 that center around protecting young users’ online privacy and wellbeing. Historically, when Europe passes new data laws, the US and other Western countries have eventually followed suit, so it’s likely that the UK’s pending Age Appropriate Design Code will set a new global standard for the treatment of children’s data.”

Given this, it does seem likely that the major platforms are working to implement new privacy tools and prompts to better align with an expected shift towards more privacy for younger users.

Which is a good thing. Again, with so many of TikTok’s users aged under 14, providing adequate protection should be a key focus, and as the app continues to grow, and connect even more youngsters through direct video uploads, its important that the impacts of such are monitored closely, in order to keep teens safe from potential harm. 

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