China’s internet regulator has proposed a set of rules to limit the time your kids spend online, requiring smartphone makers, app makers and app stores to offer a “minor mode” that restricts their use.
According to the draft regulation published by the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC), this function it will limit Internet use to two hours a day for minors aged 16 and 17. For children aged 8 to 15, this will be limited to one hour, and for children under 8, it will be limited to 40 minutes per day.
The mode should also prohibit minors from using any application between 22:00 and 06:00, draft says. Online applications for education or emergency services will be exempt from restrictions, and parents can also request various exceptions.
The draft regulation, which is subject to public comment and review, is the latest in a series of attempts by regulators to influence the education of Chinese children, from the amount of homework they receive to the time they spend playing online games. .
They also come amid government attempts to influence the behavior of young Chinese who are increasingly reluctant to marry and raise a family or participate in the rat race in China’s ultra-competitive job market, which is an obstacle to overcoming the country’s demographic crisis and sluggish economy.
Few are impressed by the latest measures, which, according to the CAC, will “help minors develop good habits” when using the Internet.
“I am a 14-year-old girl and support this policy. I’ve been busy with my phone, and now I can put it down and have a baby in accordance with the three-child policy,” the tongue-in-cheek comment under the article on the proposed rules reads, referring to the relaxation of family size restrictions by part of the government. in 2021.
“It is the parents who activate and set up the phones and have to constantly switch from one mode to another,” wrote another person, this time on the Weibo microblog. “In the end, it will just become a headache for parents.”
Another said, “Try using the internet for just two hours a day.”
The new rules also require stricter regulation of content for minors. In addition to banning pornography and anything that might entice young users to reveal personal information, the regulator will ban celebrity “fan culture” activities, another online habit that has been targeted by regulators in recent years.
Under the rules, children should not be able to view content or groups that allow you to vote, comment or raise funds for celebrities.
The regulator also said the content must “spread the fundamental values of socialism” and “the superiority of traditional Chinese culture.” as well as to instill “love for the family and the Motherland” among young people.
“Previously, only the time of online play was limited. This time it is the use of a smartphone. It is broader and stricter,” said Shen Jiahong, a Guangzhou-based Internet addiction psychiatrist, who said the new content restrictions would better protect young people.
Previous government measures to limit screen time have had limited success. Regulators have been limiting the amount of time minors spend playing online games since 2019. In 2021, even stricter rules only allowed children one hour a day on Fridays, weekends and national holidays.
Kids today often get around the restrictions by using unlimited accounts, and there are numerous reports of parents simply giving their kids their own logins. In a China Youth Daily survey of 1,900 parents of minors last year, more than 70 percent of respondents said online gambling measures had had a “limited” effect.
Similarly, in 2021, authorities banned tutoring and imposed restrictions on homework to ease the pressure on Chinese children who are notoriously forced to do massive amounts of homework and spend hours with tutors. This policy has spawned a thriving private tutoring black market.
It will also be difficult to reduce what the authorities are calling the problem of Internet addiction among young people.
“You can’t change a child’s obsession with the Internet by simply preventing them from playing online or watching certain content,” Shen said. “We cannot place too high hopes that this restriction alone will solve the problem of Internet addiction among children. There are psychological reasons behind this,” he added.
Responsibility will also fall on Chinese tech companies such as Tencent and ByteDance, which will be hit the hardest by the new rules for underage Internet use. Tencent owns WeChat, while ByteDance operates a national version of TikTok called Douyin.
Shares in Chinese tech companies — video platforms like Bilibili and Kuaishou, microblogging Weibo, and Tencent — tumbled on Wednesday after the news broke. But most of them recovered on Thursday in Hong Kong.
Young Internet users opposed the proposed measures. “I spent my money to buy a phone and now they want to take away my right to surf the Internet? Do you know how important mobile phones are to us?” — wrote one of them on Weibo.
Others joked that the new measures would not matter: “Good policy,” wrote one. “Guess how many juveniles there will be in the future,” referring to the declining birth rate in the country.
(c) 2023, The Washington Post.