There are two words every child and teen hates to hear from a parent.
When we say “screen time” to them, they roll their eyes. A feeble attempt to break them away from their phones and tablets usually ends in a force of wills. The parent knows there is something unhealthy about staring at a screen for hours on end, but the child or teen is sucked into their social media feed, texting, or using other apps.
It’s a battle for the ages, and TikTok just tried something new to help parents. Unfortunately, it’s one of the most ineffective attempts I’ve seen in quite some time.
For anyone under 18, the app will now automatically limit screen time to an hour, but the workaround is surprisingly easy. After 60 minutes, the teen will see a prompt asking if he or she wants to continue. I suppose that’s like holding a chocolate bar out to someone and saying you can only have the candy if you say please.
We all know TikTok is an addictive app. At its very core, it’s designed to keep you hooked. The algorithm actually knows what you like the most and then keeps feeding you that content. For teens, that might be prank videos, celebrity posts about new songs, or movie clips.
Scrolling also requires little to no effort. You simply keep swiping again and again and again to see more short videos. It takes more effort to scratch your knee.
I would argue that TikTok is the most addictive app ever created. At least with a game, you have to do something or complete a task to stay hooked on the app. With TikTok, teens and kids turn into zombies as they scroll endlessly.
There are plenty of useful videos and I use the app myself to keep up on tech trends and productivity hacks, but the problem with this new restriction is that it is so half-hearted. For parents, it means there is nothing that helpful other than setting a time limit someone can easily override. (This even assumes the teen who signed up uses the correct date of birth.)
For those under 13, the app does require that a parent type in a code every 30 minutes. That’s a little more aggressive and will likely reduce screen time for most younger kids.
I’m someone who tends to let parents be parents. I like how the apps provide some features to help parents restrict usage, but I’m not sure teens really need Draconian features to bock an app. Should the phone go into self-destruct mode? Start deleting apps and text messages? Suddenly become too hot to the touch?
None of that would work anyway.
My issue with this new “feature” is that it doesn’t really do anything. TikTok seems to be pandering to parents and gatekeepers who are concerned about kids getting hooked on these apps and losing focus at school or disconnecting from life.
What might work better? One suggestion I have is to pause the app entirely, say for about five minutes. I know for me, I’d probably just do something else or start using a different app. Similar to how a computer locks you out if you don’t know a password, maybe TikTok could just remove the candy altogether for a while.