The Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC), the national internet regulator, on Wednesday issued new draft regulations aimed at preventing minors from becoming addicted to their phones. The rules seek to create a healthy online environment for minors by broadening the scope of supervision to include smart terminals and app stores. The draft is open for public comment until Sept. 2, 2023.
Why it matters: Safeguarding the online experience of minors is a key concern of authorities overseeing China’s entertainment and internet industries. In 2019 and 2021, CAC introduced laws that curbed the amount of time young people could spend playing video games. If approved, the new regulations would impact a range of industries, including gaming, streaming, hardware, and other internet-connected sectors, confronting companies with a wave of challenges as the government sets increasingly stringent rules for mobile terminals and internet content providers.
Details: The draft regulations require internet companies to create customized designs for minors on different mobile platforms, including mobile smart terminals, apps, and app stores. Content and functions will need to be tailored to different age groups.
- The minor protection mode, initially focused on video, live broadcasts, and games, will soon be an essential built-in setting for mobile phones, smart watches, learning machines, and VR/AR wearable devices. When users set up their mobile devices for the first time, they will be prompted to activate a minor mode based on their ID information.
- Internet content providers will be required to modify their offerings according to different under-18 age groups. The customized designs for minors will be divided into five age ranges: under 3 years old, 3 to 8 year-olds, 8 to 12 year-olds, 12 to 16 year-olds, and 16 to 18 year-olds.
- Minor mode settings should be easy for parents to locate, the draft regulations state. Users will be able to access minor mode via a power-on reminder, desktop icon, and system setting. To exit minor mode, parents will need to verify their ID information by using their password, fingerprint, or facial recognition.
- Mobile terminals are required to provide differentiated time management for minors of different age groups. By default, mobile devices will limit usage to 40 minutes each day for those under 8 years of age, and allow a maximum of two hours for those between 8 and 18 years of age. In minor mode, access to mobile devices will be restricted between 10 pm and 6 am. However, parents will be able to exempt their children from the restrictions if they prefer.
Context: In recent years, the Chinese authorities have implemented strict measures to limit minors’ game-playing time.
- In 2019, CAC passed a law restricting minors to less than 1.5 hours of online gaming time on weekdays and three hours on weekends, with no game playing allowed between 10 pm and 8 am. Additionally, the amount minors could spend on virtual gaming items each month was limited, with maximum amounts ranging from RMB 200 to RMB 400 ($28 to $56), depending on age.
- In 2021, CAC further limited minors to an hour of gameplay from 8 pm to 9 pm on Fridays, weekends, and public holidays.