Smartphone addiction is plaguing Chinese youth, spurred by the COVID-19 pandemic. The government already implemented restrictions on gaming, limiting minors to three hours of game time a week. The Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) has proposed additional “minor mode” measures to curb children’s access to these devices by limiting time based on age range and what information each age group can view.
Last Wednesday, the CAC proposed that 16-18-year-olds limit their screen time to two hours daily. Children ages 8-15 max out at one hour a day. Anyone younger than eight sees the most restriction, getting only 40 minutes of smartphone time a day. A technology curfew would ban children from using devices between 10:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m.
The proposal aims to restrict what children can see. Children younger than three will have access to songs and audio. Children over twelve will have access to educational content and news. Social media apps such as Douyin and Weibo have already implemented restrictions by limiting daily use to 40 minutes while banning children under 14. After the allotted time is reached, apps will shut down, though some users are skirting parental controls already by using internet cafes or creating extra accounts.
Smartphone and internet addiction can significantly impact a child’s development. Numerous studies show the adverse effects of too much screen time on a person. High screen time rates are linked to an increased risk of lack of productivity, depression, anxiety, attention deficit disorder, and insomnia.
Canada’s McGill University did a study on smartphone addiction in 2022. Of twenty-four countries surveyed, China ranked at the top of the list. Children with parents who work out of town showed the highest risk for device addiction.
However, if the proposal passes, this could mean smartphone developers need to implement safeguards for smartphones. Parental controls are already on smartphones, but the proposed regulations would need to extend such protections to include filtering out content unsuitable for each age group.
Tech markets in China have already seen declining shares. Alibaba fell 3%, Bibili is down nearly 7%, and Tencent declined 3%, reports Time. And the proposal has yet to pass. The CAC is accepting comments through September 2.