China Proposes Measures to Curb Phone Use Among Minors
China is taking steps to address internet addiction and promote socialist values among its young population by proposing new measures to limit the time kids and teens spend on their phones. The Cyberspace Administration of China, the country’s top internet regulator, released a proposal requiring all mobile devices, apps, and app stores to have a built-in “minor mode” that restricts daily screen time based on age groups, with a maximum of two hours a day.
The draft rules, open for public discussion until September 2, would automatically close online applications for children and teens using minor mode when their time limits are up. Additionally, no one under 18 would be allowed to access their screens between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. While using the mode, children under eight could only use their phones for 40 minutes a day, those between eight and 16 would get an hour of screen time, and teenagers over 16 and under 18 would be allowed two hours. All age groups would receive a reminder to rest after 30 minutes of use.
To address concerns of myopia among young people, China aims to limit screen time and encourage more exposure to sunlight. The country has one of the largest internet user bases globally, with approximately 1.07 billion people having web access, and about one in five users are 19 years or younger.
The proposed measures have received tentative support from parents, who believe the restrictions can protect their children’s vision and enable better screen time control. Parents would have the option to override the time restrictions, and certain educational and emergency services would not be subject to these limits.
However, the effectiveness of the proposed measures may depend on parental buy-in, as children sometimes use their parents’ accounts to access online content. Despite potential challenges for tech companies, which would be responsible for enforcing the regulations, the proposal signifies China’s ongoing efforts to regulate its tech industry. In response to previous regulations, some tech companies introduced measures like parental controls and limited access for underage users.
The proposed rules may impact top Chinese internet firms, as their shares experienced a sharp decline after the announcement. Tencent, which operates the popular messaging platform Wechat, saw a 3% drop in its Hong Kong-listed shares. Video-streaming apps Bilibili and Kuaishou faced losses of 7% and 3.5%, respectively. Weibo, a Twitter-like platform, ended 4.8% lower.
In conclusion, China’s proposed measures to limit phone use among minors reflect the government’s concern over internet addiction and its effort to cultivate “good morality” and “socialist values” in young people. By introducing a “minor mode” and time restrictions, the country aims to protect children’s eyesight and reduce exposure to undesirable content. However, the success of these measures depends on the support of parents and cooperation from tech companies in enforcing the regulations.