The pressure from the Chinese authorities to control the time that minors spend in front of a smartphone adds a new chapter. Following recent measures to limit access to online video games, ByteDance, the mother company of TikTok has decided to follow a similar path. From now on Douyin, the version of TikTok exclusively for China, Restrict access to children under 14 years of age; they will only be able to use the popular video app for 40 minutes per day, between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. Once this time window has expired, the service will be inaccessible. As explained by ByteDance, the measure is related to the implementation of a new “youth mode” in Douyin. Anyway, from the company they have mentioned that the limitation applies to users who have provided their identification and real age. And since they know that such information can be easily misrepresented, they ask parents to register their children with real data on Chinese TikTok. “As the first short video platform to launch protection measures for minors, we understand that there will be imperfections,” they said. Chinese version of TikTok applies strict control measures to teenagers The case of Douyin is yet another example of the effect that the Chinese government has on its main technology companies. However, they also represent measures that are possibly more effective than those of any other company in the same sector, especially if we compare it with what happens in the West. It is worth noting that the Chinese version of TikTok has not only chosen to restrict the access of those under 14 years of age in a specific time interval and in a specific time slot. It has also been inclined to adapt the new “youth mode” to provide content suitable for children and adolescents. A) Yes, Douyin will offer more educational content related to history and science, among others. Also, ByteDance launched a new app called Xiao qu xing, whose literal translation into Spanish would be “Little Funny Star”. Basically, it is a new short video app in the style of TikTok but that only offers educational content. It includes the same 40 minute per day restriction as Douyin; and kids can “Like” posts, but don’t upload or share videos. Child protection measures are always a source of controversy The case of TikTok in China once again brings to the table the comparisons in relation to child protection measures and the public’s perception of them according to which countries they are applied. The case of the Asian giant is difficult to measure because the state intervenes in all aspects of daily life; and it is clear that the gaming and the use of social networks does not escape from it. However, it is very likely that Douyin’s measures – although far from perfect – are much more effective than those we see on this side of the world. In case of [Instagram] it is by far the most iconic of these times. The [Facebook] social network has become one of the bastions of online toxicity, and Mark Zuckerberg’s company is under scrutiny for failing to address the negative impact on teens. The only responses submitted by Instagram have garnered several criticisms for being too light, or downright reckless. It is clear that what TikTok proposes in China does not inspire confidence in the rest of the world because of the shadow of the state apparatus; and to a large extent it is a valid resentment. What does seem evident is that Douyin’s measurements can be really effective to prevent children from continually being exposed to inappropriate content.
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