China to limit teenagers’ smartphone use to two hours a da…[ad_1]
China is set to limit teenagers’ use of smartphones to two hours a day in one of the most stringent crackdowns on technology addiction among children in the world.
The move is aimed at creating a “safe and healthy internet environment for minors”, said the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC), the country’s top internet watchdog.
Under the restrictions, providers of smart devices will be tasked with introducing so-called minor mode programmes that also bar users under the age of 18 from accessing the internet from 10pm to 6am.
Meanwhile, a tiered system will mean those under the age of eight will be permitted a maximum of 40 minutes of usage a day, with up to two hours permitted for 16 and 17-year-olds.
Children aged between eight to 16 will have their time limit capped at one hour.
The proposed reforms are open to public feedback as part of a consultation process scheduled to run until Sept 2.
The minor mode programmes will be developed by smart device providers, application download platforms and app-makers.
As part of the move, application download platforms will be tasked with creating special areas exclusively dedicated to apps deemed suitable for minors to download.
App developers must also provide specific content suited to minors, with children between the ages of 16 and 18 recommended to receive healthy and uplifting content.
Parents will be able to use associated accounts to review any applications downloaded and prohibit their children from installing specific apps if they wish to do so.
Apps related to China’s emergency services and education will, however, be exempted from the restrictions.
The CAC also said service providers should allow parents to opt out of the time limits for their children.
The watchdog said the minor mode programmes mark an upgraded version of the “teenager mode” that was introduced in 2019, in what officials said at the time was a bid to prevent internet addiction for children below the age of 14.
In March, the Shanghai consumer rights council tested 20 major Chinese video and live-streaming platforms and found “teenager mode” was not as effective as intended, because minors were still able to bypass the restrictions.
The body also said there was not enough relevant content for those aged below 14 online.
‘Rule will not solve root problem’
Xia Hailong, a lawyer at the Shanghai Shenlun law firm, said the new rules would cause a headache for internet companies and could lead to them banning minors from using their services altogether.
He said it will take “a lot of effort and additional costs to properly implement these new regulatory requirements”.
He added: “And the risk of non-compliance will also be very high. So I believe that many internet companies may consider directly prohibiting minors from using their services.”
Shares in Chinese technology firms tumbled on Wednesday after the CAC’s announcement.
Debate, meanwhile, raged online about the proposed restrictions.
Some supported the move, saying it would increase children’s focus on their school studies, but others argued it would do little to address deeper-lying problems around addiction.
“The rule will not solve the root problem … kids always find a way to bypass these restrictions,” one user wrote on Weibo, China’s version of X, formerly known as Twitter.
Authorities have in recent years grown increasingly concerned about rates of myopia and internet addiction among young people and pursued expansive regulation of the domestic technology sector.
In 2021, the government banned under-18s from playing video games for more than three hours a week and froze approvals of new games for nine months – hammering the bottom lines of many companies, including sector titan Tencent.
The proposed new restrictions suggest Beijing’s regulatory clampdown on domestic technology giants continues, despite authorities having said they will look to support the sector.
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