By Alexandra Evans, Head of Child Safety Public Policy and Aruna Sharma, Global Head of Privacy
People from all walks of life come to TikTok to be entertained, spark joy in their everyday, and share their creativity with others. Be it through viewing the latest book recommendations on #BookTok or showing off their new digs on #renovation, everyone can find their community on TikTok – and our goal is to foster a safe and welcoming platform for these vibrant, diverse communities.
On TikTok we offer a range of safety and privacy controls to empower people to make decisions about who they share their content with. We also believe it's important to ensure even stronger proactive protections to help keep teenagers safe, and we've continually introduced changes to support age-appropriate experiences on our platform. This includes making accounts belonging to those under the age of 16 private by default, reserving features like Direct Messaging to people 16 and older, and enabling parents to guide their teen's TikTok presence with Family Pairing.
Today we're introducing a new set of changes for users aged 13-17 to further enhance these proactive protections. These changes will continue rolling out to our users globally over the coming months.
New changes to Direct Messaging privacy settings
We want to help teens make active decisions about their privacy settings, so when someone aged 16-17 joins TikTok, their Direct Messaging setting will now be set to 'No One' by default. To message others, they will need to actively switch to a different sharing option. Existing accounts that have never used DMs before will receive a prompt asking them to review and confirm their privacy settings the next time they use this feature. These updates build on our current messaging protections, such as not allowing images or videos to be sent in messages and disabling messaging for accounts under age 16.
Decide who can watch your videos
The process of making a TikTok is fun and creative – choosing music, picking effects, and getting the transitions right – but it is just as important to choose who that video will be shared with. To help teens understand the sharing options available to them, we're now adding a pop-up that appears when teenagers under the age of 16 are ready to publish their first video, asking them to choose who can watch the video. They won't be able to publish their video until they make a selection.
With each video going forward, creators can decide who can watch before they post. Accounts aged 13-15 are set to private by default, and private accounts can choose to share their content with Followers or Friends, as the 'Everyone' setting is turned off. Duet and Stitch are also disabled for accounts under 16.
Choose who can download your public videos
We're also providing additional context to help teens aged 16-17 understand how downloads work, so they can choose the option that's most comfortable for them. If they opt to turn the feature on, they'll now receive a pop-up asking them to confirm that choice before others can download their videos. Note that downloads are permanently disabled on content from accounts under the age of 16.
A mindful approach to push notifications
TikTok prioritises and supports the well-being of our community members, with features like Screen Time Management that can be enabled both by account holders or by parents as part of Family Pairing. We want to help our younger users in particular develop positive digital habits early on, and we regularly consult with leading paediatric experts and youth well-being advocates to develop our Youth Portal, bullying prevention guide, and other features that support youth-well being. Now, we'll be drawing upon this research to make changes that reduce the time period during which our younger teens can receive push notifications. Accounts aged 13-15 will not receive push notifications from 9pm, and accounts aged 16-17 will have push notifications disabled starting at 10pm.
These changes continue to build on our ongoing commitments as there's no finish line when it comes to protecting the safety, privacy, and well-being of our community. We're working with teens, community organisations, parents and creators to further innovate and we're excited to share more over the coming months.
Martin Cocker, CEO at Netsafe, an online safety focused not-for-profit organisation, said: “Netsafe endorses any change that supports and empowers users to be safer online themselves. The new default privacy settings are an important step in putting the safety of young people first and we encourage people to use them.”
To learn more about our efforts to support youth and families, you can read our Guardian's Guide.