On Wednesday, TikTok announced a series of extensive changes to the way teens—particularly younger teens—can interact with other users on the platform.
The changes affect users differently depending on which bracket they fall under. For those in the 13-to-15 age range, TikTok will now set their accounts to private by default—meaning they won’t be suggested to other users, and only TikTokers that they add as friends can view their videos. On top of this, TikTok is also revoking the ability for strangers to comment on the content of younger teens, even in the off chance that a certain video gets made public. Instead, these younger teens will need to decide whether they exclusively want their friends to comment, or whether they want comments on their clips shut off entirely. The ability for other users to download clips posted by these younger users is now shut off entirely, but crucially, so is remixing them using TikTok’s Duet or Stitch features—arguably the things that set the platform apart from the bevy of other social video apps.
TikTokers that fall between 16 and 17 years old, meanwhile, will still be able to use these tools, though permissions are set to friends-only by default from here on out, and downloads likewise are turned off from the get-go. Either setting can be changed manually.
It’s worth noting here that TikTok’s been taking substantial steps to tighten the way it handles younger users’ accounts, including a suite of restrictions that parents could remotely instate on their child’s account, after being fined $5.7 million dollars in by the FTC in 2019. Back then, the Commission charged Musical.ly—TikTok’s prior iteration—with violating the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act. Since then, advocates have issued their own complaints alleging that the FTC’s fine didn’t do enough to curb the way the platform handles childrens’ data.