China Implements New Regulations Limiting Smartphone Use for Children
In a move to combat myopia and internet addiction among young people, China’s cyberspace regulator, the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC), announced on Wednesday that children under the age of 18 will be limited to a maximum of two hours of smartphone use per day. This decision has caused shares in tech companies to plummet.
The CAC stated that providers of smart devices must introduce “minor mode” programs that restrict users under 18 from accessing the internet on their mobile devices between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. Additionally, time limits must be set for smartphone usage. Users aged 16 to 18 will be allowed two hours per day, while children aged eight to 16 will have one hour. Children under eight years old will only be permitted eight minutes of smartphone use.
However, the CAC did announce that parents will have the ability to opt-out of these time limits for their children. Despite this provision, investors were unimpressed by the new regulations. Shares in Chinese tech firms experienced significant drops in afternoon trade in Hong Kong following the release of the draft guidelines. Bilibili and Kuaishou saw declines of 6.98% and 3.53%, respectively, while Tencent Holdings, the operator of the popular social network app WeChat, closed 2.99% lower.
Legal experts, such as Xia Hailong from the Shanghai Shenlun law firm, believe that these rules will present significant challenges for internet companies. Implementing the new regulatory requirements will require substantial effort and additional costs. There will also be a high risk of non-compliance, leading many companies to potentially prohibit minors from using their services altogether.
This regulation comes as part of a broader effort by Chinese authorities to address concerns about the impact of excessive screen time on children’s health and well-being. In 2021, the government imposed a curfew on video game players under the age of 18, adversely affecting gaming giants like Tencent. Various video-sharing platforms, including Bilibili, Kuaishou, and ByteDance, have already implemented “teenage modes” that restrict access to certain content and set time limits on usage.
These proposed rules follow recent signals from Beijing indicating that the country’s regulatory crackdown on the technology industry has come to an end. Authorities have expressed their intention to support the development of tech giants moving forward.