ByteDance just launched New TikTok for Kids in China where the classic TikTok video app went down earlier this month because of a blockage of parents who used it to video chat with their kids. The parents were denied access to TikTok and a Reddit thread filled with reports of blocked access was also created.
The blocked access to TikTok is part of a government-mandated blockage on all pirated content. The blockage was due to a block of “digital contents that could confuse minors.” So far the blocks include videos and photos from Google Photos, the popular photo sharing app from Google, as well as Chinese VPN Apps and social media apps. With the blocks are in place these social media apps can no longer allow children to share photos of themselves with friends, while China does not yet block Instagram or Facebook.
Because apps like TikTok, which allows kids to share video and photos to friends, are unique in the market they are likely to be blocked in the near future. In the meantime the ByteDance’s new app for kids tries to limit access to 40 minutes a day. The 10-second teaser of New TikTok for Kids that was posted on ByteDance’s official blog does not say if the 40-minute limit will be enforced, but if it is, New TikTok for Kids has very limited free content.
From the beta blog post it sounds like many of the free ones available for New TikTok for Kids are advertisements, while the paid ones will have access to more content. It sounds like ByteDance is trying to meet the requirements of getting to the government’s regulations and “appeal to parents, and to promote safer internet habits,” according to a Reuters news article from August.
The blockage on ads may be a move to either solve the problem of blocking access to original content, or back-pedal to parents who would be more willing to trust the advertising.
New TikTok is not the first app like this that makes parents’ lives more difficult, because parents who use the app with children know this already. Kids can create their own shows and special channels with their favorite friends, but some of the things kids do on TikTok that would make parents nervous or uncomfortable, like dancing and tricks to the tunes of Ellen, Princess Bubblegum, or the new Dr. Panda children’s animation sound really appealing. But the advertisements that come with the free content definitely make most parents feel uncomfortable, and as BuzzFeed points out some videos get over 10,000 views and make over a million dollars, so ads from big brands may be why some parents get annoyed with TikTok.
New TikTok for Kids is available now, but its effectiveness as a parental controls will have to prove itself. Even still this move shows that ByteDance, the Chinese company behind TikTok, is willing to not support young children on some of the best tools for sharing and doing their own videos.