TikTok, today, added parental controls in the US with a feature through which parents can set restrictions on their kids’ accounts. The feature, called “Family Pairing”, allows parents to link their child’s accounts to their own, where they will be able to disable direct messages, turn on restricted content mode, and set screen time limits.

To set this up, parents need to scan a QR code inside the digital well-being section of their kid’s account. Children can disable the feature at any time, but their parents will get a notification and they will have the chance to re-link the account in case it was disconnected by accident.

  • Screen time: Parents can control how long their child can spend on TikTok in a day
  • Restricted mode: Parents can limit content that may not be appropriate for all audiences
  • Direct messages: Parents can disable DMs completely. TikTok also disabled direct messages for all users under 16.

Roughly a year ago, TikTok was penalised $5.7 million by the US Federal Trades Commission for violating the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), after complaints that it illegally collected personal information of children below 13 years without parental consent.

The complaint alleged that TikTok, then known as Musical.ly, was aware that a significant percentage of its users were younger than 13. The FTC had begun looking into TikTok when it was still Musical.ly, and said that 65 million people (or 32.5%) in the US of Musical.ly’s 200 million global downloads were in the US.

TikTok was collecting personal information of children, and failed to put in place appropriate protections to protect them from possible online harms. For instance, all users accounts were public by default and there were reports of adults trying to contact children.

After the ruling, TikTok began verifying users’ age, those below 13 years are directed to a “limited, separate app” with increased privacy tools. The separate restricts them from sharing personal information and publishing videos. The restricted, separate app was designed in line with FTC’s guidance for mixed-audience apps. Kids below 13 cannot share videos, comment on videos, message other users, or maintain a profile or followers.