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TikTok 'family safety mode' gives parents some app control

TikTok is introducing a new "family safety mode" designed to give parents tighter control over teens' mobile phone habits.


It will let parents link their own TikTok accounts to their child's - and turn features on and off remotely.

That includes a "restricted mode" that tries to filter out inappropriate content, and turning off messaging.

TikTok has an age limit of 13, but many pre-teens still use the Chinese-owned app.

A recent survey by UK media regulator Ofcom found that TikTok was used by 13% of all children aged 12-15 in 2019 - up from 8% the year before.

What does the new feature do?

Parents and guardians who have their own TikTok accounts - or create one for this purpose - can link their account to their child's, to have direct control over the safety settings.

The adults must open the app on both phones, head to the "digital wellbeing" settings, and identify which phone belongs to them, and which to the child.

Scanning a QR code from one phone with the other links the accounts, and lets the parent password-protect certain features.

That means the adult's phone can now turn on and off the setting for:

  • restricted mode, an automatic filter, driven by an algorithm, which tries to hide content that may be inappropriate
  • messages, which can be limited so they can only be received from friends - or turned off completely
  • screen time controls, putting a hard limit on how long the app can be used each day

These safety features have been on the TikTok platform for some time, but needed to be set on the teenager's phone manually, and locked behind a password that had to be reset every 30 days.

Why release parental controls?

TikTok is hugely popular among young people, and it was recently announced that half of all 10-year-olds own a smartphone.

A BBC investigation last year found that children and teenagers were being pressured to buy items with real money for TikTok celebrities - in exchange for phone numbers and private messages. The app made that feature an adults-only function in the wake of the report.