TikTok is rolling out a one-hour time limit for under 18s – but here’s why it won’t reduce screen time

Posted by Caroline Edwards in Comment

1 year ago

Children in the UK spent an average of nearly two hours a day on TikTok in 2022. Kids and teens are increasingly spending more time on social media. Now TikTok is trying to combat that by introducing a 60-minute daily time limit for those under 18-years-old. This may seem like a good idea, given the worrying amount of time people spend on socials, but in reality it won’t reduce screen time – it’s the equivalent of Netflix asking: “Are you still watching…”

On 1 March, TikTok announced it will be rolling out its plan to automatically limit time on the app for children to 60 minutes. When the 60 minutes are up, the user will be prompted to re-enter their password in order to continue watching videos. TikTok said this will require them to “make an active decision to extend that time”. If they reach 100 minutes, they have to enter a new time limit. For those younger than 13-years-old, a parent or guardian will need to enter a password to add 30 minutes of screen time.

Cormac Keenan, TikTok’s head of trust and safety, said: “Our tests found this helped increase the use of our screen time tools by 234%. In addition, we’ll send every teen account a weekly inbox notification with a recap of their screen time.”

TikTok clearly knows it is addictive – its algorithm knows everyone scarily well. It’s why people spend hours scrolling through their For You Page (FYP). It’s no secret social media isn’t a healthy or particularly productive use of time. While most platforms seem to want people to spend more time on their apps, TikTok is doing the opposite. At least it’s appearing to care about people’s mental health. In addition to the screen time limits, the video app is rolling out sleep reminders.

As someone who grew up on the internet (namely Tumblr), my parents tried – and failed – to reduce screen time. People will always find a way to continue going on TikTok, whether it’s on a computer or a friend’s phone. Even if you need to enter a password or you see a notification about the time spent online, if you’re hooked on an app, you’re willing to jump through the hoops.

As a Gen Z who spends an unhealthy amount of time on social media, I doubt it will help teens be more intentional about their time. If you’re already spending two hours a day on the app, what’s another hour or two? Only time will tell if this feature makes a difference.

By Caroline Edwards, CORQ news and features writer