China’s internet watchdog has recently introduced new regulations aimed at reducing the amount of time children spend on their smartphones. These guidelines have left firms such as Tencent and ByteDance, known for their popular social media platforms and online games, facing significant challenges. In an attempt to combat internet addiction amongst youth, the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) published draft guidelines on its website, outlining strict restrictions on minors’ internet usage.
Under the new regulations, minors will be prohibited from using most internet services on their mobile devices from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. Additionally, children between the ages of 16 and 18 will only be allowed to use the internet for a maximum of two hours per day. The time allotted for children aged 8 to 15 is further reduced to just one hour, while those under 8 are limited to a mere 40 minutes of internet usage. However, the CAC has not clarified which specific internet services will be exempted from these restrictions.
These latest restrictions reflect the Chinese government’s ongoing efforts to tackle the issue of internet addiction among its youth. In 2019, Beijing implemented a policy limiting children’s daily online game time to 90 minutes. This policy was further tightened in 2021, with children now only allowed one hour of online game play on Fridays, weekends, and public holidays. Social media platforms and video-sharing platforms, such as Douyin, Bilibili, and Kuaishou, have also introduced youth modes designed to filter content and restrict usage duration to combat internet addiction. Furthermore, educational content, such as science experiments, is actively promoted to children.
The stricter regulations are expected to have a significant impact on leading Chinese tech firms, including Tencent, the country’s largest online game company, and ByteDance, the operator of the popular short-video platform Douyin. In China, companies often bear the responsibility of enforcing government regulations, which places these tech giants in a challenging position. Compliance with the new guidelines will require significant adjustments to their platforms and services, potentially affecting their user base and revenue streams.
The CAC, in its statement, emphasized the importance of protecting minors online and highlighted the positive impact of implementing youth modes on internet platforms. Over the years, the CAC has continuously worked towards expanding and optimizing these modes, ensuring they contain age-appropriate content. While the CAC believes that these efforts have effectively reduced youth internet addiction and the exposure to undesirable content, it recognizes the need for further measures.
The draft guidelines released by the CAC are open for public feedback until September 2nd. This signifies the government’s willingness to engage with stakeholders and consider their input before the rules are finalized. However, the CAC has not provided a specific date for when the new regulations will come into effect. Industry players and the public will have to closely monitor further announcements from the CAC regarding the implementation timeline.
China’s recent move to tighten regulations on smartphone usage for children highlights the government’s commitment to curbing internet addiction among its youth. Stricter time limitations and the introduction of youth modes on platforms aim to protect minors and create a safer online environment. However, these regulations pose significant challenges for tech companies like Tencent and ByteDance, requiring them to adapt their services to comply with the guidelines. As public feedback is considered and the regulations are finalized, it remains to be seen how effective these measures will be in addressing the issue of internet addiction and safeguarding children in the digital age.