The middle-schooler seemed to always be on his phone watching content.
His parents would see him watching while he was getting ready in the morning and when he got home from school.
TikTok was one of his favorite platforms and he could not seem to get enough of the content. His parents tolerated the viewing until they got an email from his teacher that their son was watching during class and his grades were slipping.
This was the tipping point and his parents decided they had to intervene.
There have been concerns for awhile regarding the amount of daily screen time kids and teenagers are receiving.
Not all screen time is the same as working on schoolwork or doing research, which is viewed as beneficial. Mindlessly scrolling on Instagram or watching streaming content for hours is associated with declines in mental health.
TikTok can quickly dominate teenagers viewing time with its short and amusing videos.
Due to its algorithm, TikTok can continue offering a never-ending list of highly appealing videos for teens to watch next. The result is that it is one of the most popular social media platforms with over 2/3rd of teens using the app and 18% of all tends using it “constantly” according to a recent Pew Research Center study.
As observed by the Greek poet, Hesiod, “Moderation is best in all things.” That advice continues to prove its truth as those who moderate their use of social media tend to have better mental health and are more academically successful.
The challenge for parents is how to instill the spirit of moderation in their children when the technology has been designed to keep users watching.
TikTok recently implemented an automatic 60-minute screen time limit for all users under the age of 18. When the limit is reached, teens are prompted to enter a passcode to continue watching videos on the app.
It is meant to give teens pause about how much time they have already spent on the app. The downside is that teenagers can opt out of the feature and they can easily continue watching even with the prompt in place.
An alternative for parents who need to be more aggressive in moderating their teenagers use of TikTok can be found in the Family Pairing option in TikTok.
Parents can link their TikTok account to their teen’s setting parental controls. These controls allow parents to specify how long teens can spend on TikTok each day and the limit can extend across all of the teen’s devices like phones and tablets.
There are other parent control features that can restrict; certain types of content, search, suggestions of other accounts to follow, and receive direct messages from others. Parents can also decide if it is a public or private account, who can view their teen’s liked videos and who can comment on their teen’s videos.
The downside of family pairing is that it is only available on the TikTok mobile app. It does not work on mobile or desktop internet browsers. This means a teen can simply go to their browser to keep watching TikTok when their time is up on the app.
It is typically better for parents to start a conversation with their teenagers about the dangers of doing something too much.
Many teenagers will acknowledge that their social media use is more than they would prefer. This could open them up to parents helping them moderate their usage.
Using the tools TikTok provides is one way to help them regain control of their viewing habits.
Dan Florell, Ph.D., is a professor at Eastern Kentucky University and has a private practice, MindPsi (www.mindpsi.net). Praveena Salins, M.D., is a pediatrician at Madison Pediatric Associates (www.madisonpeds.com).
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