Parents, BYU professor react to TikTok screen time limit

TikTok announced plans for a new screen time features for teens under the age of 18. The new changes will be incorporated in the near future with teens being restricted to an hour of TikTok before being prompted with a password to continue. (Kiichiro Sato/AP Photo)

TikTok announced earlier this month their new screen time limit of 60 minutes for users under the age of 18, hoping to increase teenagers’ awareness of how much time they spend on the app.

Users between the ages of 13 and 17 will be prompted to enter a password after 60 minutes of use. The app will then ask them to decide to continue using the app.

The user will have the option to disable the feature, but if they spend more than 100 minutes on the app they will be asked to set a new time limit.

“Research … shows that being more aware of how we spend our time can help us be more intentional about the decisions we make,” TikTok’s Head of Trust and Safety Cormac Keenan said.

The new features will also set a time limit of 60 minutes for users under the age of 13 with a password prompt that will need to be entered by a parent or guardian for an additional 30 minutes of use.

The screen time limit is so users under the age of 18 can be more aware of how much time they spend on TikTok.

Sarah Coyne, a BYU human development professor who specializes in the effects of media on children and families, believes that reminders for children and teens can be helpful when using social media.

“Anything that gives you a cue just to let you know how much time has passed is probably good,” Coyne said.

Being mindful of how much time users are spending on social media is an important aspect of media literacy and self-regulation, according to Coyne.

Sarah Coyne, a researcher on the effects of media on adolescents, talks about how teenagers grossly underestimate how much time they spend on social media. Coyne examines how some teens can self-regulate, but understands it is not an easy task for many adolescents. (Ethan Porter)

Coyne believes that putting more time and money into educating children to become critical thinkers about using social media is more important than setting screen limits.

“What I think that all of these strategies are doing is just simply limit time, but academic research suggests that time doesn’t actually matter as much as the practices of what you’re doing on the phone,” Coyne said.

TikTok’s new default screen time settings are a first for a social media platform, unlike previous social media apps like Instagram and Facebook, which provided optional methods for screen time limits. 

“I don’t love requirements on anything. I think an option would be great, so the parents feel like a kid that can’t self-regulate and need that extra help can access it,” Coyne said. 

According to Jenny Larsen, a Mapleton resident with two teenagers, giving teens control over their own password does not seem effective.

“For most kids I don’t think it would do anything. I think they would just hit ignore or ‘give me more time,'” Larsen said.

Larsen also voiced her support for the tighter restrictions that TikTok plans to implement for children under the age of 13.

“I don’t think it’s appropriate for a 12-year-old to be on social media whenever they want, for as long as they want,” Larsen said.

However, Larsen does believe it is important for teenagers to have the agency to learn how to self-regulate before turning 18 and control their time over social media.

“You don’t want them to turn 18 and not know how technology makes them feel because they have always asked their parents for permission,” Larsen said.

Jenn Everton, a Mapleton resident with teens of her own, believes that screen limits are dependent on the child and how good they are with self-regulation.

“I think it depends on the kid. If they start to abuse it or overuse it, then that’s when you have to step in as a parent and set a limit,” Everton said.

According to the TikTok announcement by Keenan, caregivers will also have the opportunity to set custom screen time settings for their teenagers.

“Caregivers will be able to use ‘Family Pairing’ to customize the daily screen time limit for their teen — including choosing different time limits depending on the day of the week — giving families more choices to match screen time to school schedules, holiday breaks or family travel,” Keenan said.

Larsen believes that setting these custom screen limits will ultimately be an effective way at spending more time with family, allowing them to share videos together and enjoy TikTok as a family.

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