TikTok expands parental controls, now automatically blocks DMs for underage users

TikTok (Image credit: Android Central)

What you need to know

  • TikTok has introduced a new Family Pairing feature.
  • Parents will have the power to control who their kids can talk to, as well as limiting screentime and restricting inappropriate content.
  • It's rolling out within the coming weeks.

Social media apps like Facebook, Twitter, and TikTok are going to get a lot more use as children and adults increasingly become housebound. With that in mind, TikTok is expanding its family safety feature set with new Family Pairing functionality.

Family Pairing empowers parents to customize their child's app experience, limiting and enabling certain functionality as they see fit. It's recommended that parents have conversations with their children first before imposing these restrictions, and TikTk encourages further conversations about responsible behavior on their platform.

Here's what Family Pairing entails, as per TikTok's Jeff Collins:

  • Screen Time Management: Control how long your teen can spend on TikTok each day. In addition, TikTok has partnered with top creators to make short videos that appear right in the app and encourage users to keep tabs on their screen time. These fun videos use the upbeat tone our users love while offering a suggestion to take a break and do something offline, like read a book.
  • Restricted Mode: Limit the appearance of content that may not be appropriate for all audiences. Even without Family Pairing enabled, parents can help their teen set Screen Time Management and Restricted Mode by visiting the app's Digital Wellbeing controls at any time.
  • Direct Messages: Restrict who can send messages to the connected account, or turn off direct messaging completely. With user safety in mind, we have many policies and controls in place for messaging already – for example, only approved followers can message each other, and we don't allow images or videos to be sent in messages. Starting April 30, we will be taking those protections one step further as relates to younger members of our community, and automatically.

TikTok earlier this year debuted a Family Safety Mode that offered parents mich of the same control that Pairing offers, but required parents to have access to their child's phone. With Family Pairing Mode, they'll be able to control settings remotely once accounts have been paired via a QR code scan.

The move was praised by child safety bodies, including Stephen Balkam, founder and CEO of the Family Online Safety Institute who said:

We're thrilled to see that TikTok's age-based features will offer families important guidance on key digital literacy milestones and the importance of being a good digital citizen.

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Michael Allison