TikTok and Instagram: Stop addicting kids; Give parents control!

Adam Mosseri (Instagram) and Shou Zi Chew (TikTok)

Family's possessions removed after eviction.

Social media is a highly addictive product that nearly half of American children age 13-17, and a large, unknown number of younger children, say they use “almost constantly”. One of the most dangerous and addictive features is the “endless scroll” – the never-ending content stream that intentionally keeps kids glued to their phones for hours. Both TikTok and Instagram are built around this addictive design, but have no way for parents to set limits on their kids’ accounts. TikTok and Instagram need to create parental controls that allow parents to set healthy time and use limits for their kids.

Social media addiction shares many symptoms and patterns with other types of addictions, including mood modifications, conflict with others, withdrawal, and relapses, according to leading studies from the American Academy of Pediatrics and others. Yet unlike other addictive products – alcohol, tobacco, and even gambling – there are no social or legal protections for kids’ mental health and safety when it comes to social media use. It’s no accident these platforms are addictive – features like swipe to refresh (where a user pulls down or right to access another piece of content in an endless stream) were designed to give our brains a hit of the happy-making chemical dopamine, and are central to TikTok and Instagram. Swipe to refresh is so addictive that its original designer says he regrets designing it now that he has children.

Parents have long been the lone defenders against the addictive nature and harms of social media, but we’re working with almost no tools. TikTok and Instagram have no parental controls which give parents the ability to set usage limits to a child’s account, and the existing pop-up notifications are ineffective and easily ignored.

We demand TikTok and Instagram create real, in-app parental controls that give parents meaningful control over when and for how long their kids are on the app. Our children’s mental health and well-being is on the line.


To: Adam Mosseri (Instagram) and Shou Zi Chew (TikTok)
From: [Your Name]

Dear Mr. Mosseri and Mr. Chew,

TikTok and Instagram are driving a teen mental health crisis in America, rooted in the addictive and dangerous design of your apps. The “endless scroll” features your apps are built on keep kids glued to their phones for hours at a time, and make disengaging from social media a constant family battle. There are no parental controls which give parents the ability to set usage limits to a child’s account – the existing pop-up notifications are ineffective and easily ignored. We demand you create real, in-app parental controls that give parents meaningful control over when and for how long their kids are on the app. Our children’s mental health and well-being is on the line.