Anyone purchasing, sending, or receiving virtual gifts will now have to be 18 years old.

TikTok is increasing the minimum age at which people are allowed to send and receive paid virtual gifts to 18 in an attempt to protect children from misuse.

Users of the video sharing app are able to send digital gifts to those live streaming by buying virtual coins costing between 99p to £99.99.

But there have been reports of young people being pressured by influencers to pay them in exchange for things like their personal phone number.

The Chinese-owned platform has also come under the UK data watchdog's spotlight, with the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) saying in July that it was looking into how TikTok handles the personal data of young people.

Before today, anyone over 13 years old was permitted to send virtual gifts, and anyone over 16 was allowed to receive them.

Under the new rules, both age restrictions will be increased to 18 years old, covering the purchasing, sending, or receiving of virtual gifts, TikTok said.

"We are making these changes to foster a safe environment where users of all ages can enjoy a live stream without encountering misuse, such as any pressure to send virtual gifts," said Eric Han, head of safety at TikTok.

"Although the feature is overwhelmingly used positively, we know we have a responsibility to improve our features and policies to protect against misuse.

"To help see that the gifting feature continues to be used appropriately and respectfully, we are announcing new age restrictions today."

The app relies on people to declare their true age when signing up, though TikTok says it uses a combination of technology and human moderation to review content and reports from its community.

Any suspicious behaviour is automatically flagged to human reviewers who can then take necessary action, which could lead to account termination if a person is found to be in violation.

The updated policies will be rolling out to users over the next few weeks and will be effective across all countries where TikTok operates before the end of the year.

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