China introduces ‘Minor Mode’ aiming to limit the time children spend on the internet

The CAC released draft guidelines proposing the application of the “Minor Mode” to all mobile apps, stores, and devices used by children under 18 aiming to address internet addiction and enhance online safety for minors.


The National Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) released the draft version of the Guidelines for the Construction of Minor Mode of the Mobile internet, aiming to address the issue of ‘internet addiction’ among minors and strengthen online safety for children.

The guidelines requested for the internet ‘Minor Mode’ to expand its coverage from mobile applicants to application stores and all ‘mobile intelligent terminals.’ These encompass mobile terminal products linked to the public mobile communication network, equipped with an operating system, and allowing user-initiated installation, operation, and removal. This category includes smartphones, tablet PCs, children’s smartwatches, and other intelligent wearable devices.

The guidelines aim, among other issues, to regulate:


  • Enable automatic switching from minor to normal mode interface on mobile smart terminals, applications, and distribution platforms.
  • Support unified settings across multiple mobile smart terminals using associated accounts for parents or minor users.
  • Implement necessary interfaces and data sharing to enable anti-addiction reminders and parental supervision features in the minor mode.

Parental duties

  • Mobile intelligent terminals, applications, and stores shall adhere to the principle of being most favorable to minors and provide functions to effectively identify illegal and harmful information, avoid internet addiction, and protect minors’ safety online.
  • It should offer convenient features for parents to manage their children’s online activities, allowing them to fulfill their parental responsibilities and guide their children in developing healthy internet habits
  • Mobile intelligent terminals, applications, and stores shall establish effective complaint and reporting channels under the ‘Minor Mode’.

Age verification

  • Mobile smart terminals, applications, and stores, as well as their products and services, shall be designed and functioned based on five age-segregated levels: Less than three years old, 3-8 years old; 8-12 years old; 12-16 years old; and 16-18 years old.

Enter and Exit mode

  • The entrance and exit to the ‘Minor Mode’ should be in a fixed location and easy to find with a single click. For the first-time login, the mobile intelligent terminal shall provide multiple ways for the user to set up the age information. Users can choose not to need the minor mode at the first boot-up or system setting, and the system will no longer show relevant reminders.
  • When exiting from the ‘Minor Mode’, parents are required to verify the consent. Parents should be allowed to choose either password, fingerprint, face, or other identification methods for single or composite authentication.

Time Management

  • In the ‘Minor Mode’, Parents shall be allowed to set up the whole usage time length or period of the mobile intelligent terminal and prohibit minors from modifying the system date and time. Mobile intelligent terminals shall automatically close applications except for specific necessary applications and parent-defined exempted applications:
    • 40 minutes per day for minors under 8; 1 hour per day for minors aged 8 to 16; 2 hours per day for minors aged 16 to 18; and a rest reminder will be sent when the minor user continuously uses it for more than 30 minutes. Mobile intelligent terminals are prohibited from providing services to minors from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. every day.
    • Emergency and educational categories of applications and services are not subject to the above restriction, as well as applications that parents exempt via customized settings.

Age-appropriate content and services

  • Mobile internet information service providers shall provide age-appropriate content services for minors based on the 5 age-segregated levels. Mobile internet information service providers shall not produce, copy, publish, or disseminate illegal or harmful information.
  • Restrictions shall be applied to live streaming, webcasting, online consumption or paid services, and other online social functions. In particular, minors are restricted from joining online fundraising or voting activities for pan-entertainment purposes.
  • Algorithmic recommendation service providers shall not push to minors information that may cause minors to imitate unsafe behaviors and violate social morality.
  • Online education products and services shall not insert links to online games and shall not push advertisements and other unrelated information.

Social management requirements

  • Apps should allow minors and parents to freely follow or block specific users and control to what extent personal information and posts can be shared.
  • Applications other than instant messengers should turn off the function of private messages from strangers in the Minor Mode.

Construction of special areas

  • Strengthen the minor area of the app distribution platform.
  • Prioritize apps beneficial to minors’ well-being.
  • Prohibit apps that encourage addiction and those explicitly banned for certain age groups in the minor mode.

Parental Exemption

  • Parents can review and manage application downloads in minor mode through associated accounts.
  • They can grant exemptions for specific applications, allowing long-term or time-limited usage for educational and developmental purposes.
  • Parents can also set strict prohibitions on certain applications and functions, ensuring compliance with relevant laws and regulations.

Why does it matter? These new guidelines drafted by CAC attempt to regulate both the excessive use of mobile phones and the internet by young people and the protection of young people’s online safety. However, the new guidelines are believed to be too detailed and stringent, and will take time for the industry to adjust and adapt. 

And while feedback from internet industries is expected until 2 September 2023, the guidelines are believed to meet with a backlash. According to lawyer Xia Hailong, internet industries may consider the direct prohibition of minors using their services to avoid the risk of non-compliance. Additionally, the guidelines give most of the management responsibility to parents and have too many restrictive clauses, which are considered difficult to accept or comply with by all parents.

This is another action after China’s August 2021 regulation on Further Strict Management of Effective Prevention of Minors’ Indulgence in Online Games. All online game enterprises can only provide one hour of service to minors from 20:00 to 21:00 on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays, and statutory holidays.