China’s internet regulator called for public comments on recently drafted guidelines on limiting the use of mobile apps and smart devices by children, as the government steps up controls to create a safer online environment.

In a statement, the Cyberspace Administration of China explained the guidelines aim to strengthen the online protection for children.

It noted past initiatives “played an active role in helping minors reduce internet addiction”.

Specific new measures include upgrading a child mode to cover mobile terminals and app stores in addition to current rules on apps themselves.

The guidelines call for switching to the mode to be made simple by allowing users three options for turning on the controls: a prompt when starting a device, an icon on the desktop and a link in system settings.

Mobile terminals also must allow parents to set different usage times for children of different ages. When the daily use time limit is hit, terminals should automatically close active apps except for those exempted by parents.

After a mobile terminal is switched on, any app which is opened automatically switches to the child mode interface.

To exit the mode, parents need to verify and agree.

The deadline for submitting comments is 2 September.

Authorities started an aggressive crackdown on gaming in 2021, by introducing new restrictions to curb children’s screen time and combat addiction.