Chicago Journal of International Law

Start Page



Around the world, governments are contemplating taking steps to reverse or mitigate the negative health and developmental effects that come from the increasing amount of time children are spending online and using screens. In 2023, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) released a draft regulation restricting minors’ screen time and internet use, which imposes a significant burden not only on children, but also on technology and internet companies that wish to continue operating in the country. However, the PRC’s proposed minor mode regulation is neither an extreme departure from the types of restrictions neighboring countries in East Asia have imposed on children’s screen time and internet use, nor its own previous regulations in this area. As such, the proposed regulation is unlikely to have violated a norm of customary international law against restricting children’s internet use. Similarly, although international instruments like the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights guarantee a universal right of expression, which arguably includes an implied right to the internet, the proposed Chinese regulation is not likely to be deemed violative of either of these instruments because of ambiguities within them as to how states are meant to weigh children’s rights against their protection. This conclusion is bolstered by the competing provisions of the Convention on the Rights of the Child about protecting children’s fundamental rights while also ensuring their health and wellbeing. As such, the PRC’s Draft Minor Mode Guidelines are likely to pass without facing significant legal challenges domestically or internationally.

Included in

Law Commons