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Live-streamers prepare for a live-streaming session in Hangzhou, China, June 21, 2021. Photo: Bloomberg

China restricts minors from live streaming, citing need to improve their ‘physical and mental health’

  • Users aged between 16 and 18 must obtain permission from their parents or guardians before doing live-streams, and minors are banned from tipping online
  • China’s tighter rules on the live-streaming sector appear to be following a similar path as that for video games

China’s regulators have moved to ban minors from participating in the country’s live-streaming industry to protect “their physical and mental health”, the latest in a series of crackdowns on a sector that gained huge popularity amid the coronavirus lockdowns of 2020.

The new requirements, issued by four regulators including the National Radio and Television Administration and the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC), represent the latest government moves to strengthen minor protection in cyberspace.

“Internet platforms should … strictly implement the real-name registration requirement, and prohibit offering minors’ tipping services such as cash top-up, gift purchase, and online payment,” according to a statement issued by the regulators on Saturday.

Unlicensed video games in China banned from live-streaming platforms

“If platforms are found to violate the above requirements, measures including suspension of the tipping feature and shutting down of the live-streaming business could be put in place.”

The new rules also prohibit those under 16 from live-streaming, while users aged between 16 and 18 must obtain permission from their parents or guardians before doing live streams.

Regulators also want Big Tech to improve and upgrade their “youth mode”, a feature deployed by tech firms last year under state pressure to protect teenagers from gaming addiction and inappropriate content.

Platforms are being asked to employ dedicated youth content censorship teams, and must shut down youth mode user activities after 10pm to “ensure they have enough time to rest”, the statement said.

With the increased popularity of online activities, Chinese regulators have grappled with the issue of young people’s addiction and over spending in the digital space, describing the problem as the cause of certain social issues.

China’s tighter rules on the live-streaming sector appear to be following a similar path as that for video games. Described as a threat to young people’s eyesight, fitness and mental health, regulators took action last August to only allow teenagers to play online games for three hours per week.

Starting in 2016, the CAC has introduced a series of Qinglang, or so-called “clear and bright” campaigns, targeting what it sees as “online chaos”.

Similar restrictions on teenagers’ participation in live-streaming were laid out in a Qinglang campaign titled “Remediation of internet environment for minors during summer vacation” last July, but at the time regulators did not go into detail on the enforcement.

A live-streaming session by a virtual idol promoting the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics is seen on Alibaba’s e-commerce app Taobao, February 10, 2022. Photo: Reuters

However, the new rules specifically require platform operators to assume direct responsibility for the daily management of online youth activities, including new user registrations, auditing age requirements, and dealing with violations and punishments.

After more than doubling in size during the first year of the pandemic as consumers stuck at home turned to live streams for entertainment and shopping, the industry amassed more than 600 million users by mid 2021, according to market consulting firm iiMedia Research.

China’s most popular live-streaming e-commerce platforms are TikTok’s Chinese sister app Douyin, Alibaba Group Holding’s Taobao Live, and Kuaishou Technology’s short video platform, while Huya and Douyu are the most popular video game streamers, according to iiMedia Research. Alibaba owns the South China Morning Post.