China Is Attempting To Influence US Kids By Offering An ‘Opium Version’ Of TikTok, Expert Says

(Photo Illustration by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Nicole Silverio Media Reporter
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The Chinese government offers its children a more limited, beneficial version of the popular app TikTok than the “opium version” offered to kids in the United States, an expert said in a recent report.

Tristan Harris, co-founder of the Center for Humane Technology, told “60 Minutes” Saturday that, according to TikTok’s Chinese parent company, ByteDance, the version of TikTok given to Chinese consumers provides children with a vastly different experience. The Chinese equivalent of TikTok, Douyin, gives kids under 14 years old a 40-minute daily limit and serves them patriotic and educational content.

“They don’t ship that version of TikTok to the rest of the world,” Harris said. “It’s almost like they recognize that technology’s influencing kids’ development, and they make their domestic version a spinach version of TikTok, while they ship the opium version to the U.S. and the rest of the world.”

Meanwhile, Harris said, children in the U.S. and other parts of the western world use the app for “hours at a time.” To illustrate how TikTok is affecting American children, Harris noted that the number-one dream job for U.S. preteens is social media influencer, while in China, kids in the same age group dream of becoming astronauts. (RELATED: TikTok’s New Privacy Policy Allows Its App To Collect Americans’ Faceprints, Voiceprints and Biometric Data) 

“You allow those two societies to play out for a few generations, I can tell you what your world is going to look like,” he continued.

TikTok provides tools for parents to limit their children’s screen time and what they are able to access on the app, but it’s up to parents to use those tools.

New national security concerns have led the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Commissioner Brendan Carr to urge the CEOs of Apple and Alphabet to ban TikTok due to the platform’s extensive mining of user data. Former President Donald Trump issued an executive order in 2020 demanding that ByteDance sever its ownership of TikTok and threatening to ban its use in the United States. A federal judge later blocked the order.

“Like many global companies, TikTok has engineering teams around the world. We employ access controls like encryption and security monitoring to secure user data, and the access approval process is overseen by our US-based security team. TikTok has consistently maintained that our engineers in locations outside of the U.S., including China, can be granted access to U.S. user data on an as-needed basis under those strict controls.” TikTok said in a June statement.