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Smartphone OEMs might be forced to create a 'minor mode' on smartphones

An effort to create legislation around kids' smartphone use could force the creation of new smartphone features.

Published onAugust 2, 2023

YouTube Kids logo on smartphone stock photo 2
  • China is proposing a law that would limit smartphone usage for children.
  • Smartphone OEMs and software developers might need to implement a so-called “minor mode” to be in compliance.
  • China previously forbade children from gaming for more than three hours a week.

China is making it clear that it sees children using smartphones excessively as a huge problem. Concerned about smartphone addiction developing early in life, the country is now mulling over the creation of a law that would explicitly lay out how much time kids can spend on a smartphone each day (per CNBC).

Obviously, a law like this would be incredibly hard to legislate on a per-person basis. However, if a law does pass, it would force smartphone manufacturers and/or developers of operating systems to institute new controls for kids — a “minor mode,” or something similar.

Unfortunately, it’s not clear who exactly would be responsible for this new tool. Would it be the smartphone manufacturer itself? If so, companies like Xiaomi, OnePlus, Samsung, etc., would need to add a minor mode to their Android skins and Apple would need to do the same in iOS. On the other hand, it could be the responsibility of operating system developers, which would mean Apple and Google. Notice that, either way, Apple would need to respond.

China’s proposed legislation would limit kids’ smartphone usage to two hours each day for everyone between the ages of 16 and 18. Kids between eight and 16 would be limited to one hour each day, and kids under eight to just 40 minutes. All kids under 18 would also not be able to use phones from 10:00 PM to 6:00 AM.

Theoretically, a minor mode on phones would make these restrictions possible. It is unclear how it would work — would parents control it, or would the government? We’ll know more about what’s necessary if and when the law actually passes.

This isn’t the first time China has tried to control the digital lives of its citizens. It also limits children to three hours of online gaming each week, a law that forced many game developers to institute new software features and warnings in response.

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