In a bid to address concerns over excessive smartphone usage among children, China’s cyberspace regulator has proposed strict limits on screen time.
The Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) has put forth a series of measures to regulate smartphone usage among children. One of the critical proposals includes implementing “minor mode” programs on intelligent devices, which would disable internet access for users under 18 from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. Additionally, service providers must set time limits for different age groups. Users aged 16 to 18 would be permitted two hours of screen time per day, children aged eight to 16 would get one hour, and those under eight years old would be limited to a mere eight minutes.
Despite the stringent restrictions, the CAC has suggested that parents should have the option to opt out of these time limits for their children. This move seeks to balance parental discretion and regulatory control over screen time.
Investors were less than impressed with the proposed guidelines, resulting in a drop in shares of Chinese tech firms during the afternoon trade in Hong Kong. Xia Hailong, a lawyer at the Shanghai Shenlun law firm, expressed concern about the potential challenges internet companies might face in implementing the new regulations. He highlighted the considerable effort and additional costs involved and the high risk of non-compliance. As a result, some internet companies may consider more drastic measures, such as prohibiting minors from using their services altogether.
The Chinese government’s increasing concern over myopia and internet addiction among young people led to a curfew for video game players under 18 in 2021, causing a significant blow to gaming giants like Tencent. Video-sharing platforms such as Bilibili, Kuaishou, and ByteDance (the owner of TikTok) have already taken steps to address the issue. Since 2019, they have offered “teenage modes” to restrict content access and usage duration. For instance, ByteDance’s Douyin app bars teenagers from using it for over 40 minutes.
Interestingly, the proposed rules emerge following signals from Beijing that the years-long regulatory crackdown on the technology industry may have ended. Authorities have now expressed their intention to support the development of tech giants. As such, the proposed guidelines mark a new chapter in China’s approach to regulating its tech industry, focusing on ensuring a balanced and healthy digital environment for the country’s youth.