Chinese Cyberspace Administration Proposes Regulating Screen Time For Children

Natasha Biase

Minors in China may soon be limited to a maximum of two hours per day on their smartphones as China’s cyberspace regulator moved to crack down on internet addiction in youth.

According to Reuters, the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) has announced it wants providers of smart devices to create so-called “minor modes” that would limit internet access for users under 18.

In an apparent effort to combat device dependence in children, the CAC has stated that it wants to see children aged 16 to 18 be allowed two hours of internet access per day, children aged eight to 16 limited to one hour per day, and children under eight to be allowed just eight minutes per day. While parents would have the option to override these “minor modes,” the CAC says it is seeking to improve the role of the internet in children’s lives.

The proposal is also purportedly aimed at creating a favorable network environment, preventing internet addiction problems among minors, teaching minors healthy internet habits, enriching age-appropriate content, and minimizing accessibility to harmful content and information.

The CAC has opened the proposal to public feedback until September 2.

News of the guidance has garnered criticism from tech investors and conglomerates, who say these new rules will be a headache for internet providers.

Xia Hailong, a lawyer in Shanghai, believes the regulations require a lot of effort and worries that the risk of non-compliance will be too high, resulting in internet companies “prohibiting minors from using their services” altogether.

While the responsibility to enforce China’s new rules will fall on tech companies who would need to provide internet use data to authorities regularly, the Hindu points out that this is not the first time companies have had to comply with similar restrictions.

In 2021, in addition to pausing approvals for all new games, the Chinese government implemented online gaming restrictions for children, forcing internet companies to crack down. Children were subsequently restricted to just one hour of game-time between 8 and 9 p.m. on Fridays and weekends.

Interestingly, these new internet regulations come as the Chinese-owned app TikTok continues to be a smash hit among American Gen Zers. While TikTok is banned in mainland China, there are reportedly over 97 million users in the United States, with 60% being a member of Gen Z.

Despite China being a one-party state, its decision to prevent minors from extensive smartphone use has sparked a firestorm of conversation on social media about internet addiction among North American teenagers and children.

According to recent data, the average TikTok user spends nearly two hours per day on the platform and opens the app around eight times a day.

Prolonged use of the app has resulted in mental health issues, including anxiety, depression, inadequacy, jealousy, and isolation among North American teenagers. 

Evie also points out some serious physical implications of looking down at a smartphone all day, such as neck pain, back pain, eye strain, and other vision-related problems.

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