TikTok thirst traps could soon be rated adults-only as the app experiments with ways to block mature content from young users' feeds

TikTok thirst traps could soon be rated adults-only as the app experiments with ways to block mature content from young users' feeds
A young girl uses the TikTok app on a smartphone.Peter Byrne/PA Images via Getty Images
  • TikTok is testing out a rating system that blocks mature videos from kids' feeds.
  • The backend filters won't be directly visible to users and will automatically block mature content.

TikTok is testing out a rating system that automatically blocks age-inappropriate content from reaching younger users' feeds, a company spokesperson confirmed with Insider.

But unlike at the theater, the age-range ratings will not be directly advertised to users. Instead, the system will operate on the back end of the app and filter out content by age-appropriateness before it hits kids' feeds.

The move is part of a broader policy update announced on Tuesday that further defines the types of content that will be automatically removed from the app or be made ineligible for recommendation. The rating system is currently being implemented on a small scale, Protocol reported.

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A separate feature is also in the works that would allow TikTok creators to specify the preferred age range of their audience, according to reports by Engadget and TechCrunch.

The two developments come as social-media platforms including Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok, and YouTube grapple with how to better protect kids online, following a series of congressional hearings addressing the safety of young users.


"We continue to invest in new ways to recommend content based on age-appropriateness or family comfort," a TikTok spokesperson told Insider. "We're exploring ways to empower individuals and families to select additional content preferences for their own account or their teens' through Family Pairing."

"Thirst trap," a hashtag frequently applied to sexually suggestive videos, currently has 3 billion views on TikTok. But teen users aren't only consuming mature content — they're making it too.

Thirst traps and strip teases are currently ineligible for recommendation into anyone's For You page, regardless of age, according to the app's creator portal.

Mental health professionals told The Wall Street Journal that the mental toll of posting sexualized content can be "hugely destructive" for young girls, especially those who receive sudden fame in response. The outlet's widely shared September investigation also details the mental health effects Instagram can have on teen girls' body image, according to leaked internal research.

"We know that there's family-ish content, there's teen-ish content, there's adult-ish content," Tracy Elizabeth, TikTok's global issue policy lead, reportedly said on a call with journalists.


"We're not in the place yet where we're going to introduce the product with all the bells and whistles. But we will experiment with a very small subset of user experiences to see how this is working in practice, and then we will make adjustments," she told reporters.