Chinese lawmakers have put forward a proposal to introduce a new system that would limit the usage of smartphones by individuals under the age of 18. The proposal, presented by China’s cyberspace regulator, the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC), suggests the implementation of a ‘minor mode’ on smartphones that would prevent underage users from accessing the internet between the hours of 10pm and 6am.
In addition to the nighttime restrictions, the draft guidelines also recommend setting limits on the amount of time minors can spend on the internet based on their age. Users between the ages of 16 and 18 would be allowed a maximum of two hours per day, children aged 8 to 16 would have one hour, and those under the age of 8 would be limited to just 40 minutes of internet use per day.
However, the CAC acknowledges that parents should be given the option to opt out of these time limits for their children. The proposed system would also allow certain functions on smartphones to remain accessible during curfew hours, such as emergency calls, educational apps, and other applications approved by parents.
The regulations also call for content providers to create a separate pool of videos and games that “promote the core values of socialism” and the “traditional culture of China” specifically for minors.
Chinese tech companies have until September 2 to provide feedback on the proposals, although the timeline for when the new rules will be implemented remains unclear.
The announcement of these potential regulations has already had an impact on the stock market, with shares in major Chinese tech firms such as Tencent, Bilibili, and Kuaishou declining soon after the guidelines were unveiled.
Legal expert Xia Hailong highlighted that the proposed rules would require significant effort and additional costs to implement properly. As a result, most internet companies are likely to choose to outright prohibit minors from using their services, rather than navigating the complexities of complying with the regulations.
These new guidelines from the CAC come two years after the Chinese government imposed a curfew on gamers under the age of 18, allowing them to play online games for a maximum of three hours per week. The curfew was introduced to address concerns about the addictive nature of video games and to promote healthier lifestyles.
China has been at the forefront of addressing internet addiction as a clinical disorder that poses a threat to minors. In the past decade, the Chinese government has established numerous boot camps aimed at eliminating internet addiction by subjecting teenagers to military-style physical training.
As the debate around technology and its impact on young people continues, it remains to be seen how these proposed regulations will be received and whether they will ultimately be implemented.