02 March 2023

TikTok sets screen time limit for under-18s: How kids can help parents learn about online safety

02 March 2023

TikTok has said it will impose a default 60-minute screen time limit for anyone under the age of 18 in the coming weeks.

Cormac Keenan, head of trust and safety at TikTok said in a blog post on Wednesday that when the 60-minute limit is reached, minors will be prompted to enter a passcode and make an “active decision” to keep watching.

For accounts where the user is under the age of 13, a parent or guardian will have to set or enter an existing passcode to allow 30 minutes of extra viewing time, once the initial 60-minute limit is reached.

TikTok said it came up with the 60-minute threshold by consulting academic research and experts from the Digital Wellness Lab at Boston Children’s Hospital.

The news comes as families are struggling to limit the amount of time children spend on the video sharing app.

According to research by the UK Safer Internet Centre (UKSIC), 36% of parents aren’t sure where to go should young people need online support.

Perhaps the secret is learning more from those who use these apps every day, with 57% of young people feeling they can help educate their parents and carers about being safe online.

A study by Vodafone revealed almost half (47%) of parents feel from the age of around 12 their children know more than them when it comes to digital technology, with 60% saying they wish they were more digitally savvy, with digital safety topping the poll of areas where parents feel most ill-equipped to help their children.

More than a quarter (27%) of parents say they’d feel more at ease with their child using the internet if they had a better understanding of how to keep them safe, particularly on social media. And that’s where parents and children talking about life online, and parents learning from their kids’ digital expertise, can be key.

UKSIC director Will Gardner says: “Most parents want to start a conversation about online safety with their children. However, our research highlights that not only do young people want to have this conversation too, but that over half have a real desire to educate their parents or carers about being safe online.”

Here’s how Gardner says young people can help parents learn about online safety…

Talk about what you learn online

“The internet is a great place to learn and explore, and it can be really interesting to talk to your parents about the things you find out,” says Gardner.

However, he warns that not everything online is trustworthy, and adds: “If something seems too good to be true, it probably isn’t true. Make sure to check information, and to work out if it’s from a reliable source.”

Show parents how to report inappropriate behaviour online

If children or young people hear or see something upsetting online, they should talk to their parents about it, and report it if necessary, advises Gardner.

“You probably spend a lot more time in the apps and websites you use than your parents do,” he observes, “So it can be a great chance to show them how to do things. For example, you could show your parents how to report something on Snapchat or TikTok.”

Talk to your parents about how you live online

Young people can make it easier for their parents to help keep them safe by being clear about the apps, games and websites they use.

Engaging in conversations regularly will help your parents know more about your life online and feel like they’re sharing more of your experiences, says Gardner.

“Not all conversations have to be negative or scary, but allowing them to understand your life online, even in positive ways, can help them know how to best deal with something if it does go wrong,” he says. “Speaking to them about what you enjoy about being online or what you use the internet for can help them understand it better.”

What parents can do…

When parents and carers learn more about how their child is online and the apps, websites and games they use, Gardner advises: “Research age ratings, privacy settings and safety features like the block and report button, so you’re best placed to help your child should anything go wrong.”

Gardner says parents should encourage meaningful use of technology, in the same way they set boundaries in other areas of their child’s life.

“It might be no tech at dinner, blocks on certain sites, or only using devices when there’s an adult in the room. Discuss these with your family, and review and adapt them as time passes and their internet usage changes.”

And when it comes to the internet, Gardner says parents should remind their children they can talk to them about anything, and they should listen and respond with reassurance and kindness, and stay calm if something’s gone wrong.

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