New privacy and safety settings for teens using TikTok

13 Aug 2021

Image: © Анна Маркина/

TikTok said ‘there’s no finish line’ when it comes to safety policies, as it announced new privacy settings for users below the age of 18.

TikTok is the latest social media platform to announce new community safety features, focusing particularly on the privacy of 13 to 17-year-old users.

Under its new policies, users aged 16 and 17 will have their directing messaging settings set to ‘no one’ by default. This means that until the feature is directly enabled, these users won’t have the option to message others. Before enabling, they will receive a message asking them to confirm and will receive another such message the first time that they send a message.

There will also be a new prompt for anyone below the age of 16 when they publish a video. This pop-up will explain the different sharing options available to them and what each means. The video cannot be published until a selection is made. This group will have their account set to private by default, where content can only be shared with followers or friends.

While the ability to have their videos downloaded is disabled permanently for users below 16, their older 16- and 17-year-old peers will be able to opt in to the feature. They will receive a notification to confirm upon doing so and will be asked if they understand what enabling downloading entails.

Finally, push notifications are being adjusted to help develop “positive digital habits early on”, TikTok said. Users aged 13 to 15 will have push notifications disabled from 9pm, while those aged 16 to 17 will have them turned off at 10pm.

“TikTok’s priority is to ensure our community has a safe and positive experience on the platform. This announcement builds on our groundbreaking decision to make all under 16 accounts private by default, and adds to our growing list of features designed to safeguard our teenage users,” said Alexandra Evans, TikTok’s head of child safety public policy.

“Through our work with teenagers, parents, NGOs and academics, we’ll continue to develop new ways to allow teens to express their creativity and find joy on TikTok whilst ensuring they have a safe experience.”

Evans concluded that these changes build on the company’s ongoing commitments as there’s “no finish line when it comes to protecting the safety, privacy, and wellbeing of our community”.

Some of the existing features include a dedicated platform for youth safety and a limited version of the app for those below the age of 13, which is currently only available in the US. In the main TikTok app, messaging is already permanently disabled for those who aren’t yet 16, as are all messages containing videos or images.

Child safety has recently been a focus of social media giants, with Google and YouTube announcing new privacy features for young users earlier this week. Apple also drew attention as it revealed its new measures for safeguarding children alongside technology for detecting child sexual abuse material, which led to privacy concerns.

Sam Cox was a journalist at Silicon Republic covering sci-tech news