You can take my phone, but you will never take my freedom!
• Smartphone use for under-18s is to be restricted in China.
• The restrictions have already had an impact on tech firms’ stock prices.
• Smartphone use policies have been shown to increase productivity.
Smartphone use for China’s under-18’s might come under government restriction, according to draft guidelines publicized last week.
Last week, the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) asked smart device providers to introduce ‘minor programs’ preventing users younger than 18 from accessing the internet on mobile devices between 10pm and 6am.
This is included in draft guidelines, alongside more stringent restrictions of young peoples’ smartphone use, which are open to public feedback until September 2nd. Another type of feedback is already registering: Chinese technology shares experienced a sharp decline in response to the news.
Following the recommendation from the CAC, concerns have mounted about its potential impact on tech giants, their responsibilities, and the market’s outlook.
Predictions currently see technology giants like Alibaba and Bilibili bearing the brunt of rule enforcement – historically, they were very involved in the implementation of gaming restrictions.
Perhaps that’s why shares of both companies have taken a hit. As soon as the news of smartphone usage restrictions broke, the Chinese stock market went into turmoil and on Wednesday last week (August 2nd) shares of Alibaba closed over 3% lower in Hong Kong.
Bilibili saw a staggering 7% decline, and shockwaves continued into Thursday’s trading session, when Alibaba traded 2% lower and Bilibili was down by 0.5%.
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Tencent also took a hit on Wednesday and closed around 3% lower, but it saw a minor recovery with a 0.1% gain in Hong Kong.
As the industry awaits further developments and public feedback, many are looking back to what happened when the Chinese government placed restrictions on gaming for young people.
When China increased regulations on its gaming industry, the United States surpassed it, to become the world’s largest gaming market by revenue. Never mind young peoples’ physical and mental health, there’s revenue to be had!
Smartphone use restrictions already apply at work
Of course, on a smaller scale we’ve all had our smartphone use restricted in one way or another. Maybe working the grocery counter or waiting tables as a teen, definitely during class at school – cellphones are an acknowledged impediment in many situations.
It’s just that when the Chinese government puts the onus on smart device providers to limit usage, a smartphone becomes critical not only to the life of every young person, but also to the country’s global standing.
Most American states and companies have cellphone usage policies – although there are always those campaigning against them.
Restricted smartphone use tends to be more common in certain industries. For example, trucking companies, airlines, and factories often institute cellphone bans for – blatantly obvious, we know – safety reasons.
Fast food and retail also have some of the strictest cellphone restrictions.
Most companies allow their employees to bring their smartphones to work and, although personal use is limited while on the clock, employees typically have access to their phones in case of emergencies.
It’s worth noting here that China’s proposed limitations for young people mimic this type of usage restriction, so are more lenient than some American companies are – and in the name of more than company time!
The only thing endangered by Chinese smart device restrictions is the stock market.
In fact, some of the largest employers in the US known for banning cellphone usage completely at work have come under backlash after workplace accidents that might have been avoided.
When an Amazon warehouse collapsed during a tornado, the company’s cellphone policy came under scrutiny: if employees had their phones, they’d have received extreme weather alerts and casualties could have been avoided.
Similarly, FedEx made headlines for its no-phone policy after an incident at one of its facilities in Indianapolis. The event left the families of FedEx workers worried because they couldn’t check in on the safety of their loved ones.
Cellphone policies can improve productivity (in offices) and safety (for truckers!). Outside work, the often negative impact of smartphone use and addiction is well documented. Particularly for young people, perhaps smartphone usage restrictions imposed by the government, (rather than harassed parents), is a necessary annoyance.