October 27, 2021

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We Now Know Exactly How Long Kids Should Use Apps Like TikTok

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Well, this is helpful.

The Chinese company behind TikTok has created a new youth mode which limits usage to only 40 minutes. It’s only available through the Douyin app, which is similar to TikTok.

What this means is that we now have a major company letting us know how long kids should use a social media app. ByteDance has also restricted when younger kids and teens (those under 14) can access the app, limiting it to only daytime hours.

Want to login after bedtime? That’s not an option.

Want to sneak onto the app before dawn? Also turned off.

Curiously, this only works for registered users who provide their name and age. As usual, there are easy workarounds for accessing social media even for kids. All you need today is an email and the ability to pick a date that makes you seem older in most apps.

So about that 40 minute window. I find that fascinating. I’m someone who likes to think about intentionality and time, especially since I write about these topics quite often and even have a book that suggests we should only use social media apps for seven minutes at a time.

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To be intentional with that 40 minutes, kids will have to think about what they want to accomplish. There’s a unique concept. They might post a video or make a few comments, then ding-ding the time expires and they have to go mow the lawn or do homework.

I’m in favor of steps like this, not because there is a corporate overlord dictating to us how we should use their apps but because time is an important commodity. Modern phones have features that tell us how long we’ve used the shiny gadgets, but of course we just keep chugging along and ignore those statistics. But pulling the plug? It teaches kids (who don’t know this implicitly) how to make the most of the time they are allowed.

With that sort of thought process, they might decide to be more intentional in other areas, such as how much time they play video games. And remember that this is all optional. Parents could even create an account and let a child use that account without restrictions.

The outcome of being more intentional with how we use technology is that kids can be incredibly productive later in life. Gartner used to talk a lot about digital natives versus digital immigrants, those who either use tech from an early age or adopted it as adults. Those who are growing up with pervasive tech can be sucked into the void or they can control the void.

We might want to start them young in controlling how they use apps.

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