China Proposes Even Stricter Restrictions on Children’s Screen Time
China’s cyberspace watchdog rolled out new draft rules Wednesday as part of efforts to expand control over content and time being spent online by minors.
Online addiction is a significant problem among China’s minors, and has been blamed for eyesight and academic issues. In recent years, authorities and tech platforms have introduced “teenager modes” to curb these problems for the most popular short video and gaming apps. But parents have complained that these settings are too easy for their children to bypass.
Unlike previous regulatory efforts targeting individual apps, the draft rules require the implementation of “minor modes,” a change in terminology from the previous “teenager mode,” across a wide range of smart devices, including smart watches designed for children and early childhood education devices.
The Cyberspace Administration of China is seeking public comment for the draft rules until Sept. 2.
Under “minor mode,” the time spent online will be limited according to age, with minors under 8 limited to 40 minutes online, minors between 8 and 16 limited to an hour, and two hours for those between 16 and 18. They will also be prohibited from using mobile devices between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m., although parents may override these settings.
The rules also require online platforms to promote content such as educational news and popular science to minors under 16, and motivational content for teenagers as they approach 18.
The proposed rules address the problems faced by parents such as Sun Jieqiong, a stay-at-home mom in the northeastern Heilongjiang province, in controlling their children’s screen time. Sun’s 12-year-old son has his own tablet for online learning, but she finds it difficult to control the content he sees even in “teenager mode.”
“Teenager mode in individual apps is easy to hack into by logging into a different account or re-downloading the app,” she told Sixth Tone.
The draft rules have received mixed reactions online, with users on microblogging platform Weibo expressing practical concerns. “What should I do if I can’t call the police after encountering a stalker at night because my phone is locked?” commented one Weibo user.
China’s minors are more connected than ever. According to the China Internet Network Information Center, 191 million internet users in China were aged between 6 and 18 in 2021, representing 96.8% of that age group.
Editor: Vincent Chow.
(Heading image: VCG)