China’s Cyberspace Administration (CAC) has recently announced new regulations concerning smartphone use for children under the age of 18. According to the CAC, these young users should not exceed two hours of smartphone usage per day. In addition, the CAC is proposing the implementation of “minor mode” programs, which would restrict internet access for users under 18 between 10 pm and 6 am. The regulations also outline specific time limits based on age groups: two hours for users aged 16-18, one hour for children aged eight to 16, and just eight minutes for children under eight. However, the CAC also emphasized that parents should have the option to opt out of these time limits for their children.
Upon the release of the CAC’s draft guidelines, shares in Chinese tech companies experienced a significant decline in Hong Kong’s stock market. Bilibili and Kuaishou saw their shares fall by 6.98 percent and 3.53 percent, respectively. Tencent Holdings, the parent company of the popular social network app WeChat, also witnessed a 2.99 percent drop. Market investors expressed their concerns regarding the potential impact of these new regulations on the tech industry.
Challenges for Internet Companies
Internet companies are anticipating the challenges that these new regulations might bring. Lawyer Xia Hailong from the Shanghai Shenlun law firm expects major effort and additional costs to comply with the CAC’s proposed reforms. Implementation of the guidelines would require significant adjustments to existing systems, potentially affecting user experience. Non-compliance with the regulations could result in severe consequences for companies, further increasing the risks they face. Some industry experts believe that companies may even resort to prohibiting minors from utilizing their services altogether to avoid these complications.
Concerns over Youth Health
Chinese authorities have expressed growing concerns regarding the health and wellbeing of young individuals, particularly in terms of myopia and internet addiction. Prior to these new smartphone restrictions, the government imposed a curfew on video game playing among individuals under 18. This move had a significant impact on gaming giants like Tencent. In recent years, video-sharing platforms such as Bilibili, Kuaishou, and ByteDance have already implemented restrictions, known as “teenage modes,” to limit access to specific content and control usage duration. ByteDance’s app Douyin, similar to TikTok, restricts teenagers from using the platform for more than 40 minutes.
The Future of China’s Tech Industry
These proposed restrictions on smartphone usage for children come amidst signals from Beijing that the regulatory crackdown on the technology industry has come to an end. Chinese authorities have expressed the intention to support the development of tech giants while also ensuring the wellbeing of the younger population. However, the potential challenges and costs associated with implementing these regulations pose a dilemma for internet companies. Striking a balance between user experience, compliance with the guidelines, and maintaining profitability will be crucial for their future success.
China’s proposed restrictions on smartphone usage for children have caused a significant stir in the tech industry. The regulations aim to address concerns regarding youth health and addiction. However, the impact on internet companies and the challenges they face in implementing these restrictions cannot be ignored. As the regulatory landscape evolves, finding a balance between technological advancements and societal well-being remains a crucial task for China’s tech giants.