TikTok has introduced a minimum age requirement of 16 to use its direct messaging feature.
The video-sharing platform said it is part of efforts to boost safety as usage increases during the coronavirus lockdown.
TikTok’s head of trust and safety for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, Cormac Keenan, said the firm wants to ensure that families can trust the service.
Despite its potential for good, we understand the potential for misuseTikTok's Cormac Keenan on Direct Messaging
He confirmed that the new restrictions mean only those aged 16 and over will be able to send or receive direct messages on TikTok.
“Direct Messaging is an amazing tool that enables people to make new friends and connections no matter where they are in the world, but, despite its potential for good, we understand the potential for misuse,” he said.
TikTok has previously introduced a Family Pairing Mode, which enables parents and guardians to manage children’s experience on the platform.
Mr Keenan said more robust safety features are needed as more people turn to apps like TikTok as a means of staying in touch with others while social distancing.
“More than ever, families are turning to platforms like TikTok to keep entertained, active, and informed,” he said.
“As we are all further apart physically, platforms like ours are providing people with ways to express their creativity, seek some light relief, and show support for their friends, families, and communities.
“At the same time, we know families are focused on ensuring that their family members have an appropriate experience and, most importantly, that they are safe when they are online.
“Today’s announcement is about going one step further to put in place stronger proactive protections to keep younger members of our community safe.”
The video platform said anyone who will be affected by the change will receive a notification in the app with immediate effect
Then, from April 30, new and existing users who do not meet the age criteria will no longer have access to direct messages, TikTok said.
Andy Burrows, head of child safety online policy at the NSPCC, praised the social media company’s “proactive” step.
“This is a bold move by TikTok as we know that groomers use direct messaging to cast the net widely and contact large numbers of children,” he said.
“Offenders are taking advantage of the current climate to target children spending more time online, but this shows proactive steps can be taken to make sites safer and frustrate groomers from being able to exploit unsafe design choices.
“It’s time tech firms did more to identify which of their users are children and make sure they are given the safest accounts by default.”