TikTok Enhances Safety Measures for Younger Users, Including New Defaults and Teen-Friendly Prompts

TikTok is working to improve security for younger users, including new teen-specific DM limitations and alerts around key functionalities to better signal who would access their content as a result.


To begin, TikTok will now turn off direct messaging for users aged 16-17 by default to minimize further potential exposure to undesired and predatory DMs.
According to TikTok: “We want to empower teens to make informed decisions about their privacy settings, so when they join TikTok as a teen, their Direct Messaging setting will be set to ‘No One by default. They will have to switch to a different sharing option to message others deliberately.”

Existing accounts of young users who have never used DMs before will now be prompted to review and confirm their privacy settings when they go to utilize the service, according to TikTok.
TikTok blocked direct messaging for all existing accounts of users under the age of 16 in April of last year, and this new upgrade builds on that. While kids aged 16 and up will still be able to turn them back on, the increased friction may reduce DM abuse and the targeting of underage users within the service.
In addition, TikTok is introducing a new pop-up alert that will appear for users under the age of 16 throughout the video upload process, asking them to select who can see their video.

As you can see, when a younger user goes through the upload process, they’ll now be prompted to choose who will be able to see it before they post.
“By default, accounts between the ages of 13 and 15 are set to private, and private accounts can opt to share their material with Followers or Friends because the ‘Everyone’ choice is disabled. For accounts under the age of 16, Duet and Stitch are likewise disabled.”
The additional prompts should help to further limit undesired exposure and, at the very least, cause youngsters to reconsider their posting procedure, perhaps reducing possible harm.
Finally, TikTok wants to provide young users additional context during the upload process, including warnings about how services like downloads function and who will be able to utilize them.

That isn’t a perfect block, but it will raise awareness within the upload flow and encourage younger users to think about the potential exposure of their uploads.

The move is the latest in a series of safeguards put in place by TikTok to protect its younger users. TikTok unveiled a slew of similar features in January, including setting all accounts created by users aged 13 to 15 to ‘Private’ by default (13 is the minimum age for TikTok accounts).

This is significant given that more than a third of the app’s users are under the age of 14, according to an internal study published last year. And, given the platform’s growing popularity, the potential for this group to be exposed is significant – as a result, TikTok must take steps to provide additional precautions, when appropriate, to prevent potential misuse.

The change coincides with similar recent improvements from Instagram and other social media platforms, and is most likely related to the adoption of new legislation in the United Kingdom aimed at protecting the privacy and well-being of teenagers online.

According to Axios, the UK’s planned Age Appropriate Design Code will establish new guidelines for how teen users are protected on internet platforms and apps.

“The UK will begin implementing 15 new rules for websites likely to be viewed by users under the age of 18 in September, with the goal of protecting young people’s online privacy and wellbeing. Because the US and other Western countries have historically followed Europe’s lead when it comes to data legislation, it’s probable that the UK’s upcoming Age Appropriate Design Code will set a new global standard for the treatment of children’s data.”

Given this, it appears that the major platforms are working on new privacy tools and prompts to better correspond with the predicted shift toward more privacy for younger users.

That is to say, it is a good thing. Again, with so many of TikTok’s users under the age of 14, sufficient protection should be a top priority, and as the app grows and connects even more kids through direct video uploads, it’s critical that the platform’s effects are regularly monitored in order to keep minors safe from damage.

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