Bytedance’s Douyin broadens parental control feature, allowing remote access

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Bytedance’s Douyin has on Thursday updated its existing anti-addiction system to give parents more control over their children’s use of the app, further complying with regulator requirements to limit youth access to short videos.

The update introduced a feature named “parent-child platform” that enables parents to bind their accounts with a maximum of three other accounts. Parents can then turn on existing features like “youth mode” remotely for their children to block functionalities such as topping up and tipping, and to limit them to an age-appropriate content ecosystem.

Similar to “youth mode,” “parent-child platform” prevents kids from logging out of their accounts or switching to other accounts to evade regulation.

The user agreement for the new feature states that it will automatically terminate once a minor turns 18, but Douyin currently doesn’t require real name registration and has no means of verification.

Douyin also recruited the help of education experts to provide parents with child-rearing tips on short video posts, though views of videos with the campaign’s hashtag “child-protection league” remains low, at 1.1 million as of Friday morning.

Douyin’s recent move is reminiscent of Tencent’s and NetEase’s efforts to curb game addiction. Tencent’s “super parent,” for instance, not only tracks the time and money children spend in games, but also gives parents the ability to kick their kids out a game by tapping a button. However, Douyin still lags far behind Tencent in terms of the accuracy of its anti-addictions system—Tencent can verify game registration information using a government database and has been trialing a parental control feature that requires photos.

Starting in March 2019, the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) has been increasing the pressure on short video and video streaming platforms to implement anti-addiction systems. Initially, only Douyin, Huoshan Video, and Kuaishou had trialed the system, but on Tuesday, the CAC has expanded the list to include 17 short video platforms and four video streaming platforms.