China wants to limit the time that minors spend online to no more than two hours a day on their phones.

Hong Kong (CNN) — China is proposing new measures to reduce the time children and teens can spend on their phones as the country fights internet addiction and tries to cultivate “good morals” and “socialist values” among minors.

The proposal, published on Wednesday by China’s Cyberspace Administration, the country’s top Internet regulator, requires all mobile devices, apps and app stores to have a built-in “children’s mode” that would limit daily usage time to a maximum of two hours a day. day depending on the age group.

The restrictions, if approved, would mark an expansion of existing measures put in place in recent years as Beijing seeks to limit screen time for children and reduce their exposure to “undesirable information.”

Under the draft rules, which are open for public comment until September 2, children and teens using devices in child mode will see online apps automatically close when appropriate deadlines are met. They will also be offered “age content”.

No one under the age of 18 will be able to access your screens between 22:00 and 06:00 when using this mode.

Children under the age of eight could use their phones for just 40 minutes a day, while children between the ages of eight and 16 received an hour of screen time. Teenagers over 16 and under 18 will be allowed two hours.

All age groups will receive a rest reminder after using the device for more than 30 minutes.

Mobile Internet service providers should also actively create content that “spreads core socialist values” and “creates a sense of community among the Chinese nation,” the project says.

Parents may opt out of time limits, and some educational and emergency services may not be subject to time limits.

In recent years, “internet addiction” has become a serious problem for society, spawning an often scientifically dubious and sometimes dangerous industry of boot camp-style treatment centers.

Under the proposed new rules, children in China will face greater restrictions on screen time. (Photo: Edwin Tan/E+/Getty Images)

Way to protect your eyes

Parents interviewed by CNN expressed tentative support for the proposal.

“I think it’s good. On the one hand, it can protect their eyesight, as many young children can’t stop looking at what they like,” said a mother of two from east China’s Zhejiang province, who declined to give her consent. Name.

“On the other hand, it’s easier for us as parents to control the time our children spend in front of the screen,” he said. “The most important thing is that the content in minor mode is more positive and healthy.”

Myopia has become a national health problem in China, and some experts attribute the prevalence of myopia among young people to insufficient exposure to sunlight or excessive screen time.

China has one of the world’s largest Internet user bases, with about 1.07 billion people in the country of 1.4 billion people having access to the web, according to the China Internet Network Information Center. As of December 2022, approximately one in five users was aged 19 or younger.

The effectiveness of the proposed new measures may depend on parental consent, according to a father of two from the southeastern Chinese city of Zhuhai, who said children sometimes use their parents’ accounts to play online games.

The ordinance could be useful to “help parents look after their children” and limit screen time.

“Even we adults need it!” joked.

Impact on technology companies

The new measures could create problems for technology companies, which are usually responsible for enforcing the rules.

The proposal comes as years of heavy-handed regulation of the Chinese tech giants appears to be coming to an end.

Hong Kong-listed shares of some of the country’s leading internet companies fell sharply on Wednesday following the release of new rules.

Tencent, which runs the popular messaging platform Wechat, closed 3% lower. Video streaming app Bilibili lost 7% while rival Kuaishou closed down 3.5%. Weibo, a Twitter-like platform, closed down 4.8%.

As of Thursday, company shares traded flat or higher, with the exception of Weibo, which traded about 1% lower.

CNN has reached out to mobile phone makers Xiaomi, Apple and Huawei for comment.

Two years ago, Chinese regulators banned online gamers under the age of 18 from playing on weekdays and limited their gaming to three hours on weekends, tightening previous restrictions.

Around the same time, several tech companies introduced measures to increase parental controls, in step with Beijing’s push for stronger supervision.

Douyin, the Chinese version of TikTok, introduced a “teenage mode” in 2021 that limited the amount of time children under the age of 14 could spend on the short video app to 40 minutes a day.

Kuaishou, another popular video app, has a similar option.

Previous attempts have relied on registering Internet users under their real names. Last year, regulators ordered all online sites to verify users’ real identities before allowing them to comment or post.

— CNN’s Wayne Chang, Xiaofei Xu, Berry Wang, and Mengchen Zhang contributed to this report.

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