Kids under the age of 18 in China may see limits imposed on their use of smartphones, as Beijing looks to tackle increasing rates of myopia and internet addiction among the country’s young.
China’s cyberspace regulator said on Wednesday it wanted the use of smartphones by youngsters aged 16 to 18 limited to two hours a day, while children aged eight to 16 would get one hour and those under eight would be allowed just eight minutes.
In draft rules published on Wednesday, the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) asked providers of smart devices to introduce so-called minor mode programmes that would also bar users under 18 from accessing the internet on mobile devices from 10pm to 6am.
The regulator added, however, that service providers should allow parents to opt out of the time limits for their youngsters.
Investors were not impressed.
The proposed rules spurred a fall in shares in Hong Kong-listed Chinese tech firms, with Bilibili and Kuaishou plunging 6.98% and 3.53% respectively. Tencent Holdings, which operates the social network app WeChat, also closed 2.99% lower.
CAC said the draft guidelines will be open to public feedback until September 2.
High risk of non-compliance
Xia Hailong, a lawyer at the Shanghai Shenlun law firm, said the rules would be a headache for internet companies.
“A lot of effort and additional costs to properly implement these new regulatory requirements,” he said.
“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.”
In 2021, the government imposed a curfew for video game players under the age of 18. That dealt a huge blow to gaming giants like Tencent.
Video-sharing platforms like Bilibili, Kuaishou and ByteDance have since 2019 offered “teenage modes” that restrict the users’ access to content and the duration of use.
ByteDance’s TikTok-like app Douyin bars teenagers from using it for more than 40 minutes.
CAC’s proposed rules come at a time when Beijing is signaling an end to its years-long regulatory crackdown the technology industry. Authorities have said they will look to support the development of tech giants.
- Reuters, with additional editing by Vishakha Saxena