TikTok Tightens Privacy Features for Younger Users Under 18

The default privacy setting for young users on TikTok will now be set to private.

Although we live in a world of social media and there isn’t any doubt in how using the social media helps people stay connected as well as share their likes and dislikes about almost anything, it is also a widely accepted fact that a few aspects of using the social media bring in more harm than any good to its users.

Perhaps this is the reason why different social media platforms such as Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter, Instagram and especially the most recent and the most rapidly growing social media app, TikTok, often come under scrutiny by various independent organizations and state level committees regarding how do they protect and ensure the privacy rights of their users and what privacy features do they plan to adopt to make it possible.

In this article, we tend to discuss and explain the most recent initiative taken by the social media app TikTok to tighten the privacy features of its audience that are below the age of 18.

But before we do that, let us briefly look at why it is important to adjust the privacy features by any social media app in general.

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Why is it important for any social media platform to keep a check on its privacy features and update them as necessary?

The use of social media apps isn’t restricted to any particular age group and with time its audience levels have only grown.

This means that you can literally find any age level person on the social media platform you use.

There was a time when the most talked about threat to the younger audience level from social media use was nothing more than the issue of ‘stranger danger’.

But given the fact that today every age person have unlimited access to social media platforms, it obviously means that they have their own preferences as well at using it the way they want and what content they want to share on it.

Just like the age classification of the social media audience, this content can also be categorized based on what audience levels remain safe by being exposed to such content. Similarly in the case of young user accounts of the social media platforms, it becomes important to monitor and keep a check on what type of content should they be allowed to be exposed to and what category of audience could have access to the content that these young social media users are generating.

Due to such reasons and incidents that take place when there is any kind of breach in keeping intact the existing safety measures of privacy, social media platforms repeatedly have to upgrade their features from time to time as the need arises.

TikTok tightens privacy features for younger users under the age of 18

While the content or the videos shared on the TikTok app are nothing more than performances with minimum and maximum time duration of 4 and 60 seconds respectively, there have been instances where for the sake of quick fame in the form of a few TikTok likes, TikTok followers and TikTok views, TikTok account users have bypassed certain limits of decency and morally acceptable behavior by their acts such as by disrespecting the right of privacy of other TikTok users or celebrities, also known as TikTokers.

Hence due to such incidents, TikTok has taken a major step towards making sure that the safety and privacy of its audience and content creators below the age of 18 could not be compromised easily.

The steps and improvements that had been taken by TikTok in this regard have been highlighted in the following passages -

  • Dividing users below the age of 18 years into additional two sub-groups based on age For a much better way to classify the audience below the age of 18 years and give them more freedom and knowledge on how to make well informed decisions regarding their privacy matters, all TikTok user account profiles below the age of 18 years have been further split up into two sub-groups based on age. The first group comprises of TikTok accounts where the user age is between 13 to 15 years and the second TikTok accounts group consists of users where the age is between 16 and 17 years.

  • Following a user account between the age of 13 to 15 years now requires permission All the TikTok user accounts between the age of 13 to 15 years have been categorized as private by default. This means that you cannot view the content of any user profile between the ages of 13 to 15 years on TikTok unless you become or are their follower. This feature does not stop over here and has another enhanced security level attached to it. Due to this, in order to become a follower of a TikTok user profile between the ages of 13 to 15 years, your request to become a follower must be approved by the account holder first. While these features have been set to turn ‘Private’ by default because of the recent privacy update, user profiles between the afore mentioned age groups are still at liberty to change their profile settings from private to public. The main reason for setting these user profiles to private is that young users can better understand the role of their right to privacy in safeguarding themselves and their interests and therefore can make more informed decisions.

  • Restricting the right to comment on content generated by 13 to 15 year old TikTok account users In this case, either no one at all or only friends of a 13 to 15 year old TikTok user profile can comment on the video content generated by such a user. The option to let everyone comment on videos by such user profiles has been removed for this age category.

  • Restricting the use of the ‘Duet’ and ‘Stitch’ features on TikTok The ‘Stitch’ feature is the latest addition to the TikTok app and has been highly appreciated and welcomed by every TikTok family member. The ‘Stitch’ feature of the TikTok app is an enhanced and much inspired version of the ‘Duet’ feature of the TikTok app. This feature lets you take up to 5 seconds of video slices from the TikTok videos by other TikTok celebrities and add them or stitch them to your own videos, something that is important when creating reaction videos. However, this feature was by default launched with the condition to be able to use only if some other TikTok user allows their video to be sliced and used for this purpose. Due to the latest privacy features modification, both the TikTok app features of ‘Duet’ and ‘Stitch’ cannot be used for content created by users between the age group of 13 to 15 years. For users that fall within the age group of 16 and 17 year olds, as a default settings mode their video content can only be used by their friends for the purpose of using the TikTok app’s ‘Duet’ and ‘Stitch’ functions.

  • The ability to download TikTok videos of each other have been allowed and disallowed according to age classification of audience members Earlier, there wasn’t any restriction or objection based on age to enable and disable or allow and disallow the download of videos created by users on TikTok. But now, this has been completely changed with major improvements. No user can download the videos created by TikTok members between the age group of 13 to 15 years. For the videos created by this particular age group, the download feature has been completely removed; hence the question of being a friend or a stranger or enabling and disabling the video download option is now not available at all for this age category. However, users can still download videos created by TikTok member profiles above 16 years of age. But even after allowing this, there is still another thing with regards to TikTok video downloading feature for which default setting has been changed. For user profiles categorizing between the age group of 16 and 17 year olds, the default setting to allow other people to download their video content has been turned ‘Off’ or in other words it has been disabled. This means that this age group would have to specifically turn ‘On’ the download allowing option or enable it for their audience members on TikTok. For users aged 18 years old and above, they have the choice to either keep their download allowing feature for their video content remain turned ‘On’ or turn it ‘Off’ at their discretion.

  • Turning off the account suggesting option to other TikTok user profiles In addition to all of the above, the option of ‘Suggest your account to others’ in the settings menu of your TikTok app, has been by default turned ‘Off’ for user profiles aged between 13 to 15 years old.

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Aligning previous updates towards safety to enhance and provide more meaning to the privacy steps taken in the recent updates

Like we already mentioned in the beginning paragraphs of this article, social media platforms including TikTok, from time to time are scrutinized and subjected to adopt the latest trends and modern practices to safeguard the interests of all of their user profiles.

The sole purpose of these exercises and placing conditions by privacy policy makers and watchdogs of social media platforms as well as cyber security expert organizations is to make sure that all social media platforms can fight the challenges posed to the safety and privacy of all users especially the younger generation or those categorized as minors according to the law of the land and which are active on these social media platforms.

Likewise in an effort to bring changes that support these issues and challenges and make TikTok a safer place for all users belonging to various age groups, TikTok from the very beginning has tried its best to take all necessary precautions whenever deemed essentially important.

The most recent privacy feature upgrades are an initiative in this regard and have been built on the features previously upgraded by the TikTok app.

These features include:

  • Not allowing the ability to send direct messages and host live video streaming sessions to user profiles that classify as below 16 years of age.

  • Not allowing the ability to buy and send or even receive virtual gifts to any user profile other than those which classify as 18 years of age and above.

  • Adding the feature to allow and enable parents and guardians of teenage TikTok users to pair their accounts with their own and set and make necessary changes to their privacy settings based on what they deem to be fit and most appropriate with regard to their children’s safety and privacy interests.

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Other steps taken by TikTok to better safeguard their audience members below the age of 13 years old

TikTok during the recent privacy changes has entered into a partnership program with the Common Sense Networks, an entity that will help make TikTok platform a better place of highly sorted out video content, for users below the age of 13. However, this partnership is solely intended for young users below the age of 13 years old that belong to the United States and are users of the other TikTok app version known as ‘TikTok for Younger Users’. While this app already comprises some more features to enhance the user experience and safeguard the interests and privacy of the younger audience that is below the age of 13, this partnership will add more defensive strategies to further filter the video content that is being made available to the audience of this TikTok apps version exclusively made for the young TikTok audience in the US.

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End Thoughts

While certainly this isn’t the end to all of the privacy concerns that come to mind with regard to the younger generation of users on the social media platforms, the latest measures and improvements integrated by TikTok into its app have been termed as an excellent and highly positive step taken in the right direction and at the right time.