TikTok gave us a positive privacy change for teens

TikTok recently made changes to its privacy policy to create a slightly safer environment for its younger audience.

These changes include different default settings for notifications, direct messaging, and posting and downloads for users between the ages of 13 and 17. While many of the changes are reversible through app and account settings, TikTok adjusted its default settings to help protect and educate the less experienced and less knowledgeable portion of its community.

The Changes

In an attempt to encourage healthy digital habits among younger users, TikTok changed how they are notified at night. Now, users 13-15 do not receive push notifications after 9 pm and those ages 16-17 do not receive them after 10 pm. TikTok based these changes upon the recommendation of pediatric experts and advocates for youth well-being.

Direct messaging has also changed. Now, accounts under age 16 cannot use the feature, and accounts ages 16-17 cannot either by default. Those 16 and older can enable it in the settings, but limitations previously set in place still apply to the younger accounts.

For users between the ages of 13 and 15, their accounts now default to “private.” This means only their approved followers are able to view, like, and comment on their posts. Before they post for the first time, they now have to select who can see the post. They have the options of their followers, their friends, and just themselves. These options help make them aware of all the people who can view what they post. 

Users between 16 and 17 see a similar prompt as well. They have the added option of “Everyone,” however, because their accounts are public by default. They are also prompted to answer a question about downloads. TikTok has a feature that allows viewers to download another user’s video. After the download, that user can repost it (or an altered version of it) on other platforms without consent. As most young users might not realize this exists or recognize its potential repercussions, TikTok now asks whether the user wants to allow downloads on the post.

Learn more about their changes here.

User Response

All these changes could upset some of the younger users who want to become “TikTok famous” or want to try to make money through the app. Some concerns are that they will not receive comments on their posts or direct messages from their friends. While some of this might be true by default, many of the changes are adjustable and even reversible in the settings of the app.

So far, it seems most users are not concerned with this and are generally happy about the change. Parents of these teenage “TikTokers” are certainly pleased that TikTok is taking measures to encourage their children to be safe and conscientious on the app. It is especially helpful in families where the parents are unfamiliar with the platform. These changes could help fill in when they can’t guide their children in proper use of it. In this case, it seems TikTok is taking some responsibility in educating a less wise portion of its user base.

Our Response

One effect of this, however, is that it would encourage parents to allow their teenagers to have an account. Restrictions and pop-up messages put parents at ease when allowing their children to browse and post to an online platform. In a positive sense, this could be good and help protect kids on the app. On the other hand, it could give parents a false sense of security. This change could encourage them to become lax in regulating their children’s online activity. Without this active regulation, kids could easily do unwise things on the app and TikTok is not responsible.

While TikTok’s changes are positive, parents should continue to be alert and keep track of online activity in their households. This is still important as many of the change are easily reversible in app settings and children can lie about their age when they create their accounts. Ultimately, the app is not responsible for teenager’s behavior online. However, TikTok took a big step in encouraging positive behavior with this change.