China’s New Mandate: Limiting Minors’ Screen Time to Two Hours

Aiming to combat increasing rates of “internet addiction,” the Chinese government has proposed a new rule to limit minors’ daily phone use to no more than two hours. These groundbreaking measures have not only shaken the tech industry but also led to questions on personal rights and the role of government in personal choices.

The proposal, set forth by the Cyberspace Administration of China, the country’s chief internet regulator, has created a significant stir. It requires that all mobile devices, apps, and app stores develop a “minor mode” that limits daily screen time depending on the user’s age. This plan aims to curb children and teenagers’ screen time, potentially reducing exposure to “undesirable information.”

However, the totalitarian nature of the move into this personal matter raises serious questions of basic freedoms. As one anonymous parent queried, “Would there be penalties for this? Would parents go to jail if their children break the law?” The individual acknowledged the merits of limiting screen time for children but expressed concern about the government playing an enforcement role in what they felt was parental responsibility.

The proposed minor mode would, interestingly, allow parents to override time restrictions. In this mode, online applications would close once time limits were reached and age-appropriate content would be presented. Children would be prohibited from accessing their screens between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m., and all age groups would receive reminders to rest after using their device for more than 30 minutes. Specifics on the limitations detail a 40-minute usage cap for children under eight, one hour for those aged eight to 16, and two hours for teenagers aged 16 to 18.

This proposal comes in response to “internet addiction” emerging as a major societal concern in China. The country, home to approximately 1.07 billion internet users out of a 1.4 billion population, has allegedly experienced an increasing prevalence of nearsightedness among young people. Some experts have linked this health concern to excessive screen time or lack of exposure to sunlight.

One might question these results given that these particular issues have not become a concern in the West. Could it be that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has designed on restricting phone usage for all of its citizens and that trap doors will allow new ways for the CCP to monitor the people of China?

The proposal has already had an impact on the tech sector. Several of China’s leading internet firms saw their shares drop after the new rules were announced. Tencent, the company behind the popular messaging platform WeChat, saw a 3% decline. Other firms like video-streaming app Bilibili and rival Kuaishou experienced losses of 7% and 3.5%, respectively.

The proposal also included a call to mobile internet service providers to create content that promotes “core socialist values” and fosters a sense of community among the Chinese nation (yes, more thought control, surprised?).

Although the proposal has sparked concerns among some parents, others have expressed tentative support. A mother from China’s eastern Zhejiang province noted, “On the one hand, it can protect their vision…on the other hand, it’s easier for us parents to control our kids screen time.” She further emphasized that the content under the proposed minor mode would be more “positive and healthy.”

It is important to clarify that our concerns aren’t necessarily about the function itself – it is potentially beneficial to limit screen time for children – but rather the enforcement by the Chinese government. The Chinese Communist Party runs a totalitarian regime and there are justified worries that this feature could become another tool to tighten their control over citizens. As this new measure unfolds, it’s as though the grip on personal liberties in China becomes ever more constricting.