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Aug 3, 2023, 10:17am EDT
techEast Asia

China wants to limit kids’ smartphone usage to 2 hours a day

REUTERS/Aly Song/File Photo
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The News

Chinese regulators proposed limiting children’s use of smartphones to two hours a day.

The rules would only apply to people under 18, and there would be exceptions for educational and emergency uses, according to the draft regulation.

We’ve curated news and insights on how the move highlights Beijing’s continued crackdown on what it claims to be unhealthy online influences.

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Insights

  • Under the new rules, the Cyberspace Administration of China asked smartphone providers to introduce “minor mode programs” that pause internet access for kids from 10 pm to 6 am. But Xia Hailong, a lawyer at Chinese law firm Shanghai Shenlun, said that the regulations would be a headache for internet companies given the high costs and significant effort to implement them. And with the risk of non-compliance to be “very high,” he said that most internet companies may just completely ban minors from using their services –– Asia Financial
  • The latest move is not entirely unexpected –– China has been cracking down on tech addiction and online fandom culture among kids for years –– and national data shows that the problem has only been exacerbated with COVID-19, Chinese state media Global Times reported. In 2021, regulators banned children from playing video games for more than three hours a week.
  • Observers are unsure about how the smartphone policy will be enforced. Although China has a registry of all people who use the internet, children have found ways to play video games using fake IDs and smartphone arcades. Alfred Wu, who researches Chinese governance at Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, said that the draft proposal may be more of a “signal” to tech firms and children, rather than a “hard and fast rule.” — TIME
  • But taking away a teenager’s phone means “cutting them off from their peers,” Semafor’s Tom Chivers argues, adding that there isn’t solid evidence to determine whether social media is harmful to kids. Smartphones could possibly be responsible for causing a mental health crisis in children, but it’s not the only possibility, and “deliberately ostracizing children in the name of mental health does not sound like a good idea,” Chivers opines.
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