China is planning to introduce new measures to limit the amount of time that minors spend on their smartphones, as part of a wider effort to protect their health and wellbeing.
The Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC), the country’s top internet regulator, released draft rules on Wednesday that would require all mobile devices, apps and app stores to have a built-in “minor mode” that would restrict daily screen time according to different age groups.
Under the proposed rules, which are open for public feedback until September 2, 2023, children under the age of eight would be allowed to use their smartphones for only 40 minutes a day, while those between eight and 16 would get an hour of screen time. Teenagers over 16 and under 18 would be permitted two hours.
The minor mode would also automatically close online applications when the respective time limits are up, and offer “age-based content” that promotes “core socialist values” and “a sense of community of the Chinese nation”.
In addition, the minor mode would prevent anyone under 18 from accessing their screens between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m., except for certain educational and emergency services. Parents would be able to override the time restrictions if needed.
The CAC said the draft rules aim to prevent internet addiction among minors, safeguard their physical and mental health, and foster good morality and habits.
The draft rules are part of a broader crackdown by Chinese authorities on the country’s booming internet sector, which has faced increasing scrutiny and regulation in recent months. The CAC has also issued guidelines to rein in online fan culture, celebrity scandals and vulgar content.
China has been grappling with the issue of internet addiction among young people for years, and has introduced various measures to curb excessive screen time, such as banning online video games for minors during school days and limiting their gaming hours to three per week.
Some of China’s biggest internet companies, such as Tencent and ByteDance, have also taken steps to comply with the regulators’ demands and limit minors’ access to their popular apps and games.
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