Douyin, the Chinese app known as TikTok outside the Middle Kingdom, has imposed limits on usage time for kids.
In a weekend post to Tencent-operated portal qq.com, Douyin’s owner ByteDance revealed that it has moved all users who have authenticated with their real names, and are under 14 years of age, into “youth mode”.
Such users are now restricted to using the app for forty minutes a day, and not at all between 10pm and 6am. Youth mode users are also fed wholesome, curated content.
While restricting the amount of time that kids can spend in Douyin is required by Chinese law, and demanded by current mores in the Middle Kingdom, ByteDance is not out of the woods.
For starters, not everyone who uses the app has authenticated with their real names. ByteDance’s announcement of the time restrictions therefore suggests parents complete their kids’ registration, or manually enable Youth Mode.
Another problem is that limiting usage is bad for business: Douyin/TikTok’s content recommendation algorithms are famously successful at keeping users on the platform for longer, thereby making them a more attractive advertising target. Restricting user time will therefore hit ByteDance’s bottom line.
And when the bottom line hurts, investors go cold. Indeed, financial press report that a high-level meeting was held last week at which big Wall Street investors asked senior execs at the People’s Bank of China to explain China’s policies. They sought more certainty on future directions and their impact on the share price of Chinese tech giants, which have recently been forced to limit gaming time and remove content felt to be unpatriotic, gory, or even to feature effeminate men.
ByteDance’s post doesn’t mention the wider financial issues its new restrictions create, but does announce a bug bounty program of sorts under which users are asked to report any issues regarding registration for, or escape from, Youth Mode. Those who find bugs will be rewarded with what machine translation tools describe as a “book card” valued at around $310.
“Yes, we have become more strict with teenagers,” Douyin’s post concludes. “At the same time, we will work harder to provide high-quality content so that teenagers can learn knowledge and see the world on Douyin.” ®