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Parental Controls on TikTok
TikTok’s audience is uniquely skewed towards younger people. Over 70% of TikTok users are aged between 13-24. An entire third of TikTok’s audience is made up of teens aged 13-17.
While the Gen Z audience makes TikTok a unique marketing channel, parents have been concerned about whether the content is appropriate for younger children and have encouraged an increase of parental controls on TikTok.
Officially, TikTok states you must be 13 or older to use the app. However, the American Federal Trade Commission did issue a record £4.2 million fine back in 2018, when they found a ‘significant percentage’ of accounts owned by under-13s.
TikTok’s previous child safety measures
In response to growing concerns around child safety on the platform, TikTok introduced a ‘Digital Wellbeing’ feature where parents can restrict inappropriate content and place limits on app usage. Recognising the age limit could be bypassed, they also provide a special app version for under-13s where they can create videos, but not post them for the public to see.
In 2020, TikTok experienced explosive growth over lockdown, hitting one billion active users globally. While primarily used for entertainment, TikTok also hosts branded influencer content. This has increased parents’ concerns as many feel like age verification doesn’t go far enough to protect minors, amid reports one 9 year old in the UK managed to send over £2,000 of gifts to influencers. BBC Panorama also raised concerns after the documentary highlighted how predators were able to target 14 year old girls, but the app didn’t always ban users who sent inappropriate DMs.
So, to address these concerns, TikTok has updated it’s child safety features, introducing brand new parental controls like the ‘Family Pairing’ feature. This is reassuring news for parents, as well as, toy brands or education marketers wanting to reach younger audiences safely.
TikTok’s Family Pairing Feature
What is Family Pairing?
Family Pairing allows parents to ‘pair’ their device by linking their TikTok account to their child’s. This link enables parental controls on TikTok, set by parents across safety settings on their kid’s accounts.
Family Pairing includes limits on screen time, encouraging kids to keep tabs on their usage. TikTok’s supporting this particular feature with educational videos about managing screen time (the ‘You’re in Control’ series). Additionally, parents can limit age-restricted content that they feel is inappropriate for their children via the Digital Wellbeing control screen.
Parents can also restrict direct messaging, to make sure their children don’t receive direct messages. They can also stop their children’s accounts from sending DMs. Parents will also be able to turn off comments on their kids’ videos (for linked accounts), or restrict these to approved followers only.
Other Parental Controls on TikTok
Beyond Family Pairing, there are a number of parental controls on TikTok already. The app is only meant to be used by those aged 13 and older, and account suspected to be owned by younger tweens have been deleted en masse before. TikTok also restricts users from sending messages to each other unless they are mutual approved followers. Users also can’t send each other videos or images in direct messages.
Since April 2020, TikTok also automatically disables direct messaging for all users who registered themselves as under the age of 16. So far, TikTok has invested in significant product changes and educational content to inform people about new parental controls.
The Impact of TikTok Parental Controls for Brands
While mostly providing funny, humorous or educational content, TikTok does allow brands to sponsor content through their own accounts (as paid ads), or via influencer partnerships. TikTok’s younger audience makes it ideal for toy brands, as well as educational brands.
Toy brands have a unique opportunity to benefit from viral marketing and connect with both parents and their target market in one place. Huge brands like Rubik’s (of the Rubik’s cube) have enjoyed successful campaigns on TikTok with Fanbytes.
For brands who have been waiting to try out TikTok or perhaps are concerned about targeting users under 13, these parental controls are a reassuring update.
Encouraging younger users to participate safely
One huge perk of increased parental controls on TikTok is that more parents are comfortable with teenagers using the app. While children still need to be over 13 to get the full app experience, parents who have previously been against kids joining might feel comfortable letting them sign up now. In short, more of the toy brand target audience is on platform.
Parental controls also encourage younger users to participate safely. Toy brands can positively keep younger kids engaged with age-appropriate content by providing it, i.e. through a mix of interesting organic and sponsored content.
Toy brands can see TikTok as brand safe
Previously, concerns from the American FTC and the UK’s BBC might have scared away toy brands for fear of being associated with a network that might not prioritise child safety as it should. However, these recent parental controls on TikTok demonstrate an ongoing commitment to child safety. Moderation has gotten stricter, and the platform can now balance this alongside its high-speed growth.
In addition to parental controls, TikTok has also launched other child-friendly initiatives, such as the #LearnOnTikTok series. This focus on wholesome content also makes TikTok a safer place for most children online, as compared to other popular social networks.
TikTok is an ideal channel for toy brands because of its high growth, diverse younger audience. There’s no other place to reach as many young people in one place.
TikTok’s popularity sometimes raises concerns for parents, who want to make sure their kids are consuming age-appropriate content and having a positive experience. In response to ongoing concerns, TikTok has taken significant steps to protect minors and teens in-app. The most recent of these controls is Family Pairing, allowing parents to moderate their children’s settings in-app.
Overall, addressing child safety concerns makes the network a safer place for kids, and a safe bet for toy marketers. While they may previously have shied away, these new safety measures enable more of the target audience to join and enjoy TikTok free of child safety issues.