Strengthening privacy and safety for youth on TikTok

TikTok partners with Common Sense Networks to elevate the quality of age appropriate content.

TikTok News Room
Wednesday, January 13, 2021

By: Eric Han Head of US Safety, TikTok

At TikTok, we know that creativity and expression are personal. And so is privacy. That's why we empower our community with a range of controls to manage their online presence. As young people start their digital journey, we believe it's important to provide them with age-appropriate privacy settings and controls. Today we're announcing changes for users under age 18 aimed at driving higher default standards for user privacy and safety.

Enhanced default privacy settings

Starting today, we're changing the default privacy setting for all registered accounts ages 13-15 to private. With a private TikTok account, only someone who the user approves as a follower can view their videos. We want our younger users to be able to make informed choices about what and with whom they choose to share, which includes whether they want to open their account to public views. By engaging them early in their privacy journey, we can enable them to make more deliberate decisions about their online privacy.

Additional changes we're rolling out to promote a safe experience for our younger users include:

  • Tightening the options for commenting on videos created by those ages 13-15. These users can now choose between Friends or No One for their account; the Everyone comment setting is being removed.
  • Changing Duet and Stitch settings to now make these features available on content created by users age 16 and over only. For users ages 16-17, the default setting for Duet and Stitch will now be set to Friends.
  • Allowing downloads of videos that have been created by users 16 and over only. Other users can decide whether they want to allow downloads of their videos, though for users ages 16-17 the default setting will now be changed to Off unless they decide to enable it.
  • Setting "Suggest your account to others" to Off by default for users ages 13-15.

Adjusting TikTok's default account settings to support stronger user privacy is a meaningful step in our ongoing commitment to keeping our younger users safe. These changes build on previous updates we've made to promote youth safety, including:

  • Restricting direct messaging and hosting live streams to accounts 16 and over.
  • Restricting the buying, sending, and receiving of virtual gifts to users 18 and over.
  • Enabling parents and caregivers to set guardrails on their teen’s TikTok experience through our Family Pairing features.

An update on TikTok for Younger Users

In the US, we accommodate users under 13 in a limited app experience, TikTok for Younger Users, which offers additional safeguards and privacy protections designed specifically for a younger audience. This experience allows users to browse a curated library of age-appropriate videos, and today we're pleased to announce a partnership with Common Sense Networks as we continue to improve upon this experience. Through our partnership, Common Sense Networks will provide additional guidance on the appropriateness of content for children under 13 as we work to create an enjoyable and safe viewing experience.

A pioneering approach to privacy

There's nothing more important than the safety and privacy of our community. We regularly publish Transparency Reports, and we continue to show experts and policymakers how we operate, moderate and recommend content, and secure user data at our Transparency and Accountability Centers. We also have privacy information on our Safety Center.

We know there is no finish line when it comes to protecting users and their privacy, and our investment in this important area won't stop here. We'll continue to evolve our policies, work closely with regulators and experts in minor safety, and invest in our technology and teams so that TikTok remains a safe place for everyone to express their creativity.

What youth safety experts are saying

“We couldn’t be more pleased about partnering with TikTok to develop better content experiences for users under the age of 13. At Common Sense Networks, we see this engagement as an opportunity to double down on our commitment to elevate the quality of children’s digital media so that age-appropriate content is the rule in our industry and not the exception.” – Eric Berger, CEO, Common Sense Networks

"National PTA applauds TikTok for advancing safe and age-appropriate experiences where teens can have fun and be creative. With TikTok's thoughtful changes to teens' privacy settings, National PTA continues to recommend that families sit down together, explore the app's safety controls and tools, and have open and ongoing conversations to help teens be safe and responsible online. This is particularly important to ensure teens' accounts are set up right from the start. PTA looks forward to continuing our important work with TikTok to educate families across the country about online safety." - Leslie Boggs, President, National PTA

"When it comes to social media, one size does not fit all. For example, there is a big difference in the maturity of young teens and older teens and it's important that be reflected in privacy settings. TikTok's recent privacy updates honor these differences by placing age-appropriate defaults on teens' account settings that provide an extra layer of protection for younger teens and a greater amount of freedom for older teens." - Larry Magid, CEO, ConnectSafely

"Putting these new measures in place is another positive step forward in TikTok's safety and privacy efforts," said the Family Online Safety Institute. "Thinking ahead about what is appropriate for teens of different ages creates an opportunity for these younger users to learn and grow responsibly on the platform, and serves as an important teachable moment when they do gain those abilities." – Stephen Balkam, CEO, Family Online Safety Institute

“MediaSmarts' research has shown that young people care strongly about protecting their privacy, but that they are also strongly influenced by the default settings of the platforms they use. Changing the defaults is a positive first step to respect young people's developing understanding of privacy, by helping them manage who sees and interacts with their content.” - Kathryn Ann Hill, Executive Director, MediaSmarts

"It's critical that platforms provide families with meaningful choices to help protect their children and guide them to make safer decisions about their online presence. We are encouraged by TikTok's continued work to enhance the options families have and create higher standards of default privacy settings. These efforts have the power to help young people stay safer online."– John Clark, President & CEO, NCMEC

"These latest improvements from TikTok mark a major step forward in enhancing the privacy and safety of children on their platform. Privacy by default, removing the ability for strangers to comment on children’s videos and restricting downloads are important steps in the fight against the grooming, sexual exploitation and abuse of children online. We look forward to continuing this vital work with TikTok along with the rest of our members from governments, private sector and civil society, to ensure that children worldwide can enjoy the opportunities technology can bring without the risk of sexual exploitation and abuse.” – Iain Drennan, Executive Director, WeProtect Global Alliance