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Chinese Government Proposes Limiting Minors’ Smartphone Screen Time With “Minor Mode”



Screen Time

(CTN NEWS) – Amidst the realm of digital existence in China, the authoritative Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) has put forth audacious regulations, proposing to restrict smartphone screen time for individuals below the age of 18, allotting them a mere two hours per day.

In this audacious and robust draft of regulations, Beijing’s aspirations to gain dominion over various facets of the country’s digital landscape become apparent, showcasing its growing power over the virtual domain.

Should these rules be enshrined into law, it could significantly impact technology giants like Tencent and ByteDance, the custodians of some of China’s most prominent mobile applications.

The CAC’s comprehensive set of draft rules serves as an extensive endeavor by Chinese authorities to mitigate and forestall addiction among the youth, aged below 18, towards apps and smartphones.

As a precursor to this, China had already introduced regulations in 2021, limiting teenagers under 18 to play online video games for no more than three hours per week.

Being well-aware of impending strictures by regulatory bodies, major internet behemoths in China are taking preemptive measures to evade such constraints.

Key Provisions of the Proposed “Minor Mode” for Smartphones Screen Time Aimed at Protecting Children in China

According to the drafted provisions, smartphones must incorporate a specialized “minor mode” that caters to the needs of those under 18. This mode should be conveniently accessible upon device activation, either through a home screen icon or system settings.

Empowering parents with control, this minor mode will facilitate monitoring and filtering of content accessible to their children, while also enabling internet service providers to deliver content appropriate for each user’s age.

The CAC recommends that children aged three and below should be exposed to songs and audio-focused content, whereas those between the ages of 12 and 16 can be exposed to educational and news content.

Concurrently, the CAC has issued stern warnings to online service providers, cautioning them against delivering services that might induce addiction or prove detrimental to the physical and mental well-being of children.

The touted minor mode would also:

  • Prevent use of a device between 22:00 and 06:00;
  • Remind users to take a break every 30 minutes;
  • Allow parents to set device usage times;
  • Include anti-bypass measures – such as only allowing factory resets with parental permission, and;
  • Require the minor mode app to be present on a device’s home page at all times, without the ability to hide or uninstall it.

Proposed Draft Rules by CAC: Smartphone Usage for Children in Distinct Age Groups

The draft rules issued by the CAC thoughtfully divide children into distinct age groups, bestowing varying limitations based on their age.

For children under eight years old, the proposed restriction stipulates a mere 40 minutes of smartphone usage per day. Meanwhile, kids above eight but below the age of 16 would be permitted to use their phones for no more than one hour daily.

For those falling within the 16 to 17 age bracket, the allowable handset usage extends to a maximum of two hours.

To safeguard children’s well-being during night hours, the draft regulations propose a curfew, prohibiting any handset services from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. the following day.

Nevertheless, certain exemptions exist within these timeframes, as regulated educational products and emergency services applications remain unrestricted.

As an additional safeguard, parents must actively verify and oversee any attempts to exit the minor mode on the device.

It is important to note that these rules in China are not yet enacted and remain open to public consultation for further considerations and adjustments.

Uncertainties Surrounding Implementation and Enforcement of Proposed Draft Law: Impact on China’s Tech Giants

Significant uncertainties still loom over the implementation and enforcement of the proposed draft law, leaving questions unanswered about its potential impact on China’s technology giants.

One pressing issue pertains to the responsibility for creating the minor mode. Whether it falls upon the operating system provider or the device manufacturer remains unclear.

In either scenario, this could place the burden on companies like Apple, compelling them to develop something entirely new for their iPhones specifically in the Chinese market.

The monitoring and regulation of the time limits and minor mode software by the CAC also await definitive decisions.

As the legislation unfolds, technology giants operating within China, including prominent device makers like Apple and Xiaomi, along with software players like Tencent and Baidu, will closely observe the developments.

Drawing parallels from a similar instance two years ago, when China imposed restrictions on gaming time for young users, Tencent and NetEase, two major global online gaming companies, revealed that users under 18 constituted only a fraction of their overall revenue.

It is evident that the unfolding of these regulations will have substantial implications for China’s tech industry, and the companies involved are keenly attentive to the potential ramifications.


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