Chinese regulators have proposed rules that would limit under 18s to a maximum of two hours a day on their smartphones.
The country’s cyberspace regulator said it wanted providers of smart devices to introduce a so-called ‘minor mode’ which would bar users under the age of 18 from accessing the internet on their mobiles from 10pm until 6am.
Under the proposed rules, users aged 16 to 18 would be allowed two hours a day, children aged eight to 16 would get one hour, while children under eight would be allowed just eight minutes.
The proposal comes as authorities have grown increasingly concerned about rates of myopia (short-sightedness) and internet addiction among young people in recent years and highlights Beijing’s desire to exert more control over digital life in China.
If the draft rules by the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) are brought into law, they could have implications for companies which run some of China’s biggest mobile apps like TikTok’s owner ByteDance.
Providers would also have to set time limits under the proposed reforms but should also allow parents to opt out of the time limits for their youngsters, the CAC said.
The Chinese authorities have previously said they will look to support the development of tech giants.
However, experts say daily limits on phone usage would be a headache for internet companies.
Xia Hailong, a lawyer at the Shanghai Shenlun law firm, said: “A lot of effort and additional costs to properly implement these new regulatory requirements.
“And the risk of non-compliance will also be very high. So I believe that many internet companies may consider directly prohibiting minors from using their services.”
The regulator’s proposal also follows the government’s curfew for online video game players under the age of 18 which was brought in back in 2021 and has dealt a huge blow to game giants like Tencent.
Video-sharing platforms like Bilibili, Kuaishou and ByteDance have offered ‘teenage modes’ that restrict the users’ access to content and the duration of use since 2019.
ByteDance’s TikTok-like app Douyin bars teenagers from using it for more than 40 minutes.
But shares in Chinese tech firms mostly fell during the afternoon trade in Hong Kong after the CAC published its draft guidelines, which it said was open to public feedback until 2 September.