The Cyberspace Administration of China has announced new regulations today that monitor the amount of internet used by children.
The regulations are intended to “prevent and intervene” in children’s internet addiction as well as guide children to forming good internet habits.
Children under 8 are not allowed to use their mobile devices for longer than 40 minutes and children between the ages of 8 and 16 are prohibited from using their devices for any longer than 1 hour.
On top of placing a curfew on children’s internet use from 22:00 to 06:00 the next day, the Cyberspace Administration has also introduced new “minor modes” for mobile devices.
These modes not only regulate the content that children see to ensure it is age appropriate but will also issue a “rest reminder” every 30 minutes of use.
The regulations do state that any “products and services used to protect the personal safety of minors”, such as emergency call services, will be exempt from time restrictions.
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On top of creating healthier internet habits for children, the regulations also state the importance of mobile devices being used infrequently to prevent damage to the “physical and psychological development of minors such as vision or hearing.”
Internet addiction in children
Whilst statistics over how many children are internet-addicted vary, there is research consolidating the negative effects of internet overuse in children.
A 2022 study found that internet addiction reduced children’s sleep and exercise time which then had a significant knock-on effect on the mental health of children.
Whilst China’s regulations on internet addiction in children are recent, the UK’s NHS has already been treating children with online gaming addictions since 2019.
Social media’s growing responsibility
The regulations state that it is the responsibility of internet service providers to enforce these regulations.
Chinese apps such as WeChat or Douyin are widely used amongst children and although punishments for not enforcing these regulations have not been specified, they will have to regulate the content that children see more.
In GlobalData’s 2023 predictions in the telecoms and media sector report, they state that social media has already seen a massive downturn in advertising revenue. Tackling updating content regulation whilst remaining profitable will continue to be social media companies’ biggest challenge.
This is not unique to Chinese social media companies, as the UK’s upcoming Online Safety Bill also proposes more responsibility onto social media companies over children’s safety online.