TikTok wants us to touch some grass

2 mins
02 Mar 2023
TikTok wants us to touch some grass

A new function will attempt to kick users under the age of 18 off the app after 60 minutes of screen time

image RIMOWA

words Lucy O'Brien

TW: Mentions of eating disorders and self-harm.

TikTok, the very reason for our declining attention spans and hours-long addictive video scrolling sessions, is telling us to put our phones away and go hug a tree. And hey, perhaps we should listen. A new function on the app will prompt users aged 18 and under to limit their screen time to 60 minutes per session, the company has just announced.

The move comes as a response to a number of recent reports claiming that the TikTok algorithm pushes out harmful content that can encourage disordered eating and self-harm to vulnerable young users.

And this isn’t the first time the media company has attempted to encourage young users to get off the platform after extended screen time. Last year, the brand manufactured a prompt that encourages teens to stop scrolling and consider taking a break from the endlessly addictive algorithm. But this new function, which is said to come into action within the next few weeks, goes a step further; under-18’s will be stopped mid-scroll and made to enter a password after reaching 60 minutes of screen time if they want to stay on the app and continue consuming content.

You can, however, opt out of the service. But perhaps we shouldn’t. After all, excessive screen time isn’t great for our wellbeing: An increasing number of studies are concluding that excessive use of social media can lead to increased risks of poor mental health in young people, especially causing anxiety, depression and isolation. Meanwhile, research linking better physical and mental health with access to nature and time spent outdoors stress the benefits of getting off our phones and reconnecting with the real world.

TikTok’s latest screen time function hopes to, at the very least, make young people conscious of the amount of time they are spending on the platform. After all, the app’s capacity for endless content, combined with an algorithm that tailors videos to our individual tastes, makes for an addictive scrolling experience that’s hard to switch off from. TikTok giving themselves a much needed check is encouraging.

Hopefully, this will be a significant step in the right direction in deterring harmful levels of social media consumption and encouraging young people away from their screens and into the big wild world. Get tree hugging, folks!

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