Chinese children, teenagers to have smartphone usage restricted

Children look at a phone on a street in Shanghai, China August 28, 2021. — Reuters
Children look at a phone on a street in Shanghai, China August 28, 2021. — Reuters

BEIJING: Chinese authorities have decided to deal with the excessive use of smartphones and internet addiction among children and teenagers.

Under the expected regulations, those below the age of 18 will have limited access to the internet and their smartphones from 10pm to 6am from September 2 this year.

The authorities will implement a tiered system to manage mobile usage time, with 40 minutes per day as the maximum for children, while those aged 16 and 17 years will be allowed usage for up to two hours.

Proposed by the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC), the new rules are among the strictest in the world, as they aim to control and regulate the exposure of young people to smartphones as well as the internet during certain hours.

Parents, however, will be able to bypass them if they wish.

The CAC said the rules would “improve the positive role of the internet, create a favourable network environment, prevent and intervene in minors’ internet addiction problems, and guide minors to form good internet use habits”.

The measures would build upon existing efforts to strengthen the online protection of minors, it added, including by “enriching age-appropriate content” and reducing “the influence of bad information”.

Beijing authorities have pursued expansive regulation of the domestic tech sector in recent years, due in part to concerns over the risk posed to young people by digital technology.

In 2021, China capped the amount of gaming time for children with the stated aim of fighting addiction, and froze approvals of new games for nine months, hammering the bottom lines of many companies including sector titan Tencent.

And Wednesday’s decision suggests Beijing´s regulatory clampdown on domestic tech giants continues.

Stocks of many leading Chinese internet firms fell Wednesday following the CAC’s announcement, with Tencent’s Hong Kong-listed shares down 3.0 percent.

Meanwhile, web search, AI, and online services giant Baidu saw its shares fall 3.75% during trading in Hong Kong.

— Additional input by AFP


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