Finally, someone is limiting the time kids spend on screens and it’s TikTok?

Even TikTok agrees teens and tweens are spending too much time on TikTok and now, somewhat surprisingly, the popular social media platform is doing something about it.

The company announced in a blog post on Wednesday a new effort to help young people manage their time on TikTok on some of the best smartphones, though it hinges on platform members telling the truth about their age. 

Soon, TikTok will set a 60-minute usage limit for all users under 18. The prompt, though, will be more of a suggestion in that the teen will only have to enter a passcode to extend their time. For those who do so and break the 100-minute barrier (who doesn't?), TikTok will soon encourage them to set up their own screen time limit for the app.

Usage rules for those under 13 will be more strict. Once they reach the 60-minute limit, a parent or guardian will have to enter a code to restore access. There is nothing in the announcement about how TikTok is verifying the age of its users.

TikTok is pairing these new limits with a collection of screentime management tools that it's adding to its Family Pairing parental management feature. They include a screen time dashboard and the ability to mute notifications. The latter should help keep TikTok phone notifications from pulling teens back onto the platform.

The moves come just two days before the US celebrates National Unplugging Day, an unofficial gadget and social media holiday where people of all ages are encouraged to put down gadgets and screens and relearn pre-digital skills like hobbies, screen-free bedtime, and face-to-face social interaction.

Whether or not you believe in unplugging, there's no arguing with the current, startling screen time trends, especially among teens and tweens.

TikTok Screen time management tools

TikTok’s new screen time management tools (Image credit: TikTok)

A growing problem

Screentime among tweens and teens has been growing for years and all but exploded during the pandemic. Common Sense Media's 2021 survey reported a 17% spike in media use between 2019 and 2021. A more recent study put kids' daily TikTok use at 80 minutes per day. That's a lot of short videos.

Parents and maybe some overstimulated teens may welcome some screentime structure but it's also worth noting that TikTok's motives might not be entirely altruistic. The company is facing heavy scrutiny from US Government officials, many of whom are calling for an outright TikTok ban. The concern, though, has nothing to do with too much screen time and everything to do with TikTok's ties to the Chinese government.

TikTok is still owned by Chinese tech firm ByteDance and many fear that the Chinese government has unfettered access to TikTok data and, therefore, all of our activities on the platform. However, TikTok has been moving all of its US data to Oracle servers based in California. The company claims that no one in the Chinese government has access to US TikTok data.

Whoever is looking at the data, there may soon be less of it to peruse if TikTok's screen time management efforts are successful.

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Digital transformation drives public cloud spend in Middle East and North Africa

The move by large organisations and small- and mid-sized enterprises to transform their businesses digitally is driving public cloud spend in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena).

Sid Nag, research vice-president at Gartner, said that government initiatives such as Smart Dubai, Smart Abu Dhabi, Bahrain’s Cloud First Policy of 2019 have bolstered cloud adoption among large organisations in the region.

Organisations are also increasingly moving their applications and workloads to the public cloud as concerns around security and governance dissipate further as many global tech companies have opened data centres in the region for data residency regulations.

Big tech companies have shown interest in the UAE to open data centres. Amazon Web Services has a cluster of data centres in Bahrain and the UAE.

Oracle already opened its first data centre in the UAE last year in Abu Dhabi and plans to open one more in Dubai this year, and two in Saudi Arabia this year, one had already opened in Jeddah, while Microsoft opened its data centres in Dubai and Abu Dhabi last year.

Alibaba Cloud, the cloud computing arm of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group, has already invested in one data centre in the UAE while SAP opened its data centres in UAE and Saudi Arabia last year.

IBM opened two data centres – one each in Dubai and Abu Dhabi – this year.

Big cloud providers need to have local data centres to cater to governments, financial and banking sectors for data residency regulations.

Necip Ozyucel, Cloud and Enterprise Group Lead at Microsoft UAE, that the cloud adoption was strong in the UAE but the challenge was finance and government industries because of data redundancy and latency was also another challenge for other industries as well.

After the opening of data centres in the UAE, he said there is a strong adoption of cloud services across industries and it has also unlocked all the problems of the governments.

“Governments and financial sectors are moving mission-critical apps onto the cloud and many customers in retail, construction, airlines, and small- and medium-sized companies are migrating,” he said.

Arun Khehar, senior vice-president for East-Central Europe, Middle East, Africa and India at Oracle, said that that the data centre is a huge catalyst for on-premises customers to move to the cloud as they can expand beyond their geographies and it can be done only through the internet and cloud.

“Government sector is not an issue as we have been selling to them three years back. The issue is with the sensitive part of the government such as the department of finance. This happened because of the Abu Dhabi data centre. Data sovereignty is a key issue. HR and payroll are crucial and sensitive in this part of the world,” he said.

Security and privacy issues have been taken care of because of the local data centre, he said and added that the cost of running a cloud is cheaper as there is no infrastructure cost, skills are not needed as Oracle own the skills and upgrades.

Growth drivers: CRM and ERP

Khehar said that business issues have become critical and digital transformation has become a much bigger issue than where the data is going to reside.

Nag said that the collective economic goal of the region to become more technology- and data-centric has been a cornerstone to this rapid acceptance of both the private and public cloud.

The regional market is expected to increase 21% year on year to $ 3b this year compared to $ 2.5b a year ago and this figure is expected to increase to $ 3.6b in 2021.

Nag said that SMEs in the region are focusing their investments in cloud deployments that will enable faster business analytics and artificial intelligence, both of which are key growth drivers for public cloud in the region.

In the public cloud space, software as a service (SaaS) is expected to account for 53% of the total public cloud service revenue to $ 1.6b this year compared to $ 1.3b a year ago.

“SaaS products are typically sold via subscription, allowing companies to avoid large up-front licensing fees and capital costs. The cost-effectiveness of SaaS is one of the motivations for organisations to increase their spending in the segment,” Nag said.

Customer relationship management (CRM) and enterprise resource planning (ERP) remain the top two segments driving the growth of SaaS and will continue to go up as businesses keep enhancing their customer experience.

Nag said that ERP will accounts for 12% of the overall public cloud service revenue forecast this year and this is because most independent software vendors have converted their ERP applications from on-premises, license-based offerings to cloud-based SaaS offerings.

While business intelligence (BI) applications are currently low in the region, he said that it is the fastest-growing segment among SaaS offerings and on pace to total $ 29 million in 2020, an increase of 37% from 2019.

“BI revenue is expected to achieve 30% growth over the next three years as local businesses leverage BI-based analytics to make smarter decisions and optimize their business operations,” he said.

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