By | November 12, 2023
Deep Dive: What Are China's New Internet Rules to Protect Minors?

Deep Dive delves into hot issues in Hong Kong and China. Our easy-to-read articles provide context to understand what’s going on, while our questions help you create informed answers. Check sample answers at the end of the page.

News: Internet and tech companies, governments and schools must follow China’s new cybersecurity rules to protect minors

As of 2021, China had more than 191 million Internet users younger than 18. The government wants to keep these minors away from Internet violence and addiction.

Last month, Chinese Premier Li Qiang ordered the adoption of the Internet Protection Regulation for Minors. The goal of these rules is to provide a digital environment that is good for the “physical and mental health” of users under the age of 18.

The new rules state that schools and technology companies must provide terminals, software or apps with special functions that protect minors from internet addiction and harmful content. The rules enter into force on 1 January next year.

Chinese Premier Li Qiang has issued an order to enact the Internet Protection Regulation for Minors. Photo: Xinhua

“The Central Party Committee and the State Council attach great importance to the protection of minors in cyberspace, as it concerns the future of our nation and the happiness of families,” the Ministry of Justice and the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) said in a joint statement on Oct. 24.

“The Internet has expanded the study and living space of minors; but it has also brought some problems,” the statement said, noting issues such as young people’s poor awareness of security, the presence of illegal and harmful information, misuse of personal information and internet addiction.

Organizations and individuals may not produce or distribute content that shows sex, violence, gambling, cults, superstition, terrorism, separatism or anything that causes people to harm themselves.

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The new rules also require web product and service providers to set up and improve cyberbullying early warning, detection and response systems. They also tell schools to train teachers to spot when students are addicted to the internet and step in to help them at an early stage.

Internet platforms should check their protection features frequently and provide special services for minors. ISPs that violate these rules can be fined up to 50 million yuan, or 5 percent of the company’s sales in the previous year.

Under current rules, tech companies are required to use a “teenage mode” feature to control games and content for users under 16. In youth mode, for example, users are prevented from performing live stream broadcasts or giving gifts to live streamers.
Staff writers

Question prompts

1. Which of the following statements are true about China’s recent actions mentioned in the News?

(1) They aim to protect minors from Internet violence and addiction.

(2) They require schools and technology companies to collaborate.

(3) Companies that do not comply with the rules may be fined.

(4) They penalize anyone who does not report when minors access violent content online.

A. (1), (2) and (3) only.

B. (1), (2) and (4) only.

C. (1), (3) and (4) only.

D. (2), (3) and (4) only.

2. Why is the Chinese government introducing the Regulation on Internet Protection for Minors?

3. To what extent do you agree that these new rules are necessary? Use News and your own knowledge to answer.


Question prompts

1. According to the chart, what was the most common problem experienced by young Internet users in China in 2021?

2. Name ONE action the Chinese government is taking to solve the problems mentioned in the diagram.

Issue: China’s regulation of internet addiction could erode user base of Big Tech platforms, analysts say

  • The new regulation that comes into force next year is not expected to have a major effect in the short term, but over time it could lead to a change in user habits

  • Beijing considers internet addiction a major problem among minors, so it has imposed many tough rules on video games and internet use

China’s latest regulation to tighten internet use by minors is expected to have a limited impact on big tech companies in the short term but could hurt their long-term user base.

Under the Internet Protection for Minors Ordinance, mobile device manufacturers — which include local smartphone giants such as Xiaomi, Huawei and Oppo — must pre-install software for less protection, or clearly instruct users on how to install it.

Game and short video companies – including Tencent Holdings, TikTok owner ByteDance and NetEase – must also provide a “minor mode” on their platforms.

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“For most Internet and gaming companies, minors are not their target customers,” said Zhang Shule, an analyst at CBJ Think Tank, adding that he did not expect the launch of the new regulation to affect the profits of Chinese Internet companies.

Tencent is the largest video game company in the world by revenue. According to the company, minors accounted for just 0.4 percent of total time spent on domestic games and 0.7 percent of gross revenue in the first quarter of this year.

However, the new rules may prevent companies from having minors develop gambling habits when they become adults. This could affect the future number of users of various Internet products, according to Zhang Yi, who is the founder and chief analyst at Guangdong-based consulting firm iiMedia.

Zhang added that big tech companies may also lose opportunities to get young users to recognize their brand.

Children play with smartphones on display at a Huawei store in Shanghai, China. Photo: EPA-EFE

Research by Sinolink Securities also noted the possibility that these regulations could reduce the lifetime and future user base of some platforms. The research firm said minors made up 20 percent of Chinese mobile gamers and 13 percent of users on ByteDance’s short video platform Douyin. Restricting how minors use these products could hurt the companies in the future.

For years, Beijing has been fighting internet addiction, and this has led to numerous regulations from multiple agencies, sometimes with overlapping regulations.

Beijing has already restricted online video games for minors. Players under the age of 18 are only allowed to play online games for three hours per week.
Staff writer

Question prompts

1. Based on the problem, which of the following are NOT predictions that experts have about the effects of the Internet Protection Regulation for minors?

(1) They will have a significant negative impact on the earnings of Chinese Internet companies.

(2) The big tech companies may struggle to attract young people to their products.

(3) Businesses will lose a large part of their active users of mobile services.

(4) The long-term user base of the local large technology companies will not be affected.

A. (1), (2) and (3) only.

B. (1), (2) and (4) only.

C. (1), (3) and (4) only.

D. (2), (3) and (4) only.

2. According to Issue, which platforms have a user base that could be most affected by the new regulation? Explain.

3. How effective do you think these measures are in protecting minors on the internet? Explain using News, Issue and your own knowledge.


Illustration: Brian Wang

Question prompts

1. What does the illustration suggest about how the new regulations will affect China’s video game industry?

2. Based on the illustration, how can excessive gambling and internet use affect minors? Explain with your own knowledge.

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  • cyber security incidents: (in the chart) include fraud, viruses and leaked personal information, according to a 2021 report by the China Internet Network Information Center

  • Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC): China’s National Internet Regulatory Authority and Censor. To implement the Regulation on Internet Protection for Minors, the CAC will coordinate between various government departments – including ministries and administrations responsible for press and publishing, radio and television, public safety, education, telecom and culture and tourism – as well as local authorities.

  • harmful content: (in chart) is also described in the China Internet Network Information Center’s report as “pessimistic and negative content”. Respondents said they had been exposed to videos made to show off wealth, which promoted “lying flat” (doing the bare minimum to get by) and depicted gory and violent content.

  • Ordinance on internet protection for minors: contains 60 articles instructing Chinese smart device manufacturers and mobile service providers, local governments, educational institutions and parents on what they must do to protect minors online. It also encourages the dissemination of content promoting “core socialist values”, revolutionary culture and traditional Chinese culture, among others, to improve morale. According to the rules, providers of Internet products and services must be monitored by the government and society, cooperate in inspections, establish complaint or reporting channels and handle cases in a timely manner. Companies that do not comply can face fines of up to 500,000 yuan (HK$548,170).

  • youth mode: also called minor mode. The CAC said the youth mode feature had already helped curb internet addiction and reduce the impact of harmful content on young users. But state media have reported that youth mode can be easily bypassed, and there have been calls for more safeguards to protect young people online.

Your Voice: What to do if you are addicted to video games

Example of answer

1. A
2. The Chinese government is introducing these new rules to ensure the protection and well-being of minors in cyberspace. By implementing these regulations, the government aims to create a safer cyberspace for minors and promote their physical and mental health.
3. To a limited extent, I agree with the Chinese government’s decision to impose these rules. While it is important to protect young individuals from harmful content and Internet addiction, it is also necessary to preserve the freedom of young Internet users to access information and online educational opportunities.

1. The most common problem for young Internet users in China in 2021 was encountering harmful content, such as content depicting violence.
2. The Chinese government is implementing the Cyberspace Protection Regulations for Minors, which require schools and technology companies to provide terminals, software or apps with special features to intervene and protect minors from Internet addiction and harmful content.

1. C
2. Chinese mobile games and ByteDance’s Douyin may be most affected as minors make up 20 percent of Chinese mobile gamers and 13 percent of Douyin users. If minors are limited in their usage time, these platforms will lose a significant part of their user base.
3. I am not sure how effective these measures will be as users may just wait until they are 18 to play games and do whatever they want on the internet. If they are not taught self control and how to use the internet wisely from a young age, they will struggle to navigate the online world by the time they are 18. (accept other similar answers)

1. It could indicate that the video game industry could face difficulties as China works to address the social harm associated with excessive gaming by introducing various regulations that limit the use of mobile devices and services among minors.
2. In the illustration, despite the stormy and dangerous environment, the teenager continues to play the video game. It suggests that excessive gambling habits can lead to poor academic performance, social isolation and even poor mental and physical health.

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