The Chinese version of TikTok “Douyin” is introducing a “teenage mode” that will limit the number of times children under the age of 14 spend on the short-form video app to 40 minutes a day. The measure will apply to all Douyin users under the age of 14 who have registered for the app using their real names, Beijing-based ByteDance recently announced in a statement. Douyin will also be unavailable to those users between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m., the owner of TikTok and Douyin added.
The company also urged parents to help their children register with real names, or otherwise manually enable “teenage mode.” However, ByteDance has not responded to a question about how it might enforce the policy for those who don’t use their real names. Last month, the country barred online gamers under the age of 18 from playing on weekdays and limited their play to just three hours most weekends. The app also said it would introduce new content — ranging from science experiments and museums to art gallery exhibitions and natural scenery — to “inspire” younger teens.
The plan to limit the usage of the Chinese version of TikTok is said to be a “proactive measure” by ByteDance to get ahead of potential regulation, analysts at Citigroup Global Markets. They suggested that the decision could push other internet platforms with short video content to look at implementing similar restrictions. “Self-assessment and voluntary implementation of minor-protection measures by more platforms could help suggest platforms are being more socially responsible and potentially reassure parents and regulators,” they added.
According to media research firm iiMedia Research, Douyin had at least 490 million users in November 2020. Chinese regulators have already started pressuring tech companies to curb the amount of time minors spend on their services. In June, the Chinese government revised its “Minor Protection Law,” which requires internet service providers — including social media apps — to “set up corresponding functions such as time management, content restriction and consumption limits for minors.”
Douyin’s rival Kuaishou — which is backed by Tencent — introduced a similar setting for minors in 2019. China’s pressure on tech companies is part of plans to impose new regulations on businesses focused on the next generation, from a heavy crackdown on private tutoring to rules for online gaming.