Editor's note: The Law on the Protection of Minors is set to be amended for the second time since being enacted in 1991. The draft revision to the law submitted to China's top legislature for the first review on Monday, while based on family, school, social and judicial protection for children, has added internet and government protection for minors. Three experts share their views on the issue with China Daily's Yao Yuxin. Excerpts follow:
Teachers must have right to discipline students
The draft revision includes many new potential threats to children that have emerged in recent years with the aim to make juvenile protection comprehensive. The draft focuses on school bullying, a serious problem widely discussed in China in recent years. Given that minors enjoy legal exemption from being prosecuted in a regular court of law even if they commit a serious crime, many wonder whether the lack of punishment for underage perpetrators is the reason behind the rising spate of violence in schools and other places.
The draft lists some specific measures to deal with such incidents. For instance, it requires schools to establish a mechanism to prevent school bullying, and report the situation to parents and guardians, and to cooperate with government officials to handle such incidents.
It also requires schools to take disciplinary action against offenders in accordance with the level of violence, as well as to provide psychological counseling for the victims.
Yet many clauses of the existing law have been poorly enforced in the past, because schools are reportedly reluctant to make public such negative issues in a bid to avoid tarnishing their reputation, and teachers tend to adopt a lenient attitude toward students who bully their schoolmates or indulge in violence on the campus because their right to discipline students has no legal sanctity.
Therefore, external supervision, such as through parents' committee, should be introduced to ensure the revised law is enforced in schools, and teachers must be empowered to discipline students who bully their peers.
Xiong Bingqi, deputy director of the 21st Century Education Research Institute
Age-appropriate games can protect minors from cyber harm
The draft minors' protection law includes a new chapter, "Internet Protection", extending the protection of minors from the real to the virtual world.
Legislators have given a nod to a clause on the proper use of the internet by minors, which in some cases parents have denied, fearing that the cyber world is a distraction from academic activities.
The draft requires digital service providers to offer non-addictive content to minors, and build a special anti-addiction system which, among other things, would limit the minors' online playtime and access to the internet. While the restrictive terms apply to online games for minors, the law requires digital service providers to divide the video games into different categories according to national correlative provisions.
Yet, in the near future, it is necessary to lay out the details of the standards of classification in the law. Given the different levels of physiology, cognition, morality and understanding of law among different age groups, the ages of 6, 12, 16 and 18 could be one of effective criteria for categorizing online gaming.
By setting up uniform identifiers for age-appropriate games, a barrier could be built to protect the minors from cyber harm and therefore help them to play and enjoy the games suitable for their age. This will also allow parents to exercise supervision over their kids and provide standards which designers can follow in developing new games.
Moreover, parents should not be oversensitive to their children playing video games, as by so doing they could undermine parent-child relations. Instead, parents should make efforts to gain better knowledge of the internet and software so they could more effectively guide their children in the virtual world.
Sun Jiashan, a researcher at the Chinese National Academy of Arts
Family education must be included in law
Apart from internet protection, the draft also includes a new section on "government protection" to help minors avoid the negative impacts of the internet.
The 11-clause chapter on "Internet Protection" in the draft lays out the duties for governments, schools, parents and digital service providers in navigating youngsters through cyberspace.
The draft also requires enterprises that provide internet products for minors to smooth the channels of complaints and hire full-time staff to deal with complaints about cyber harm to kids in a more professional manner, because many parents have said their complaints against digital service or online product providers have not been handled properly.
And since bullying can be stopped only with the active cooperation of schools, teachers, parents and students, the lack of communication between parents and kids could undermine the policy's effects.
Therefore, family education should be included in the law, making it obligatory for guardians to learn how to scientifically bring up children.
However, the government should establish a national platform for monitoring the playtime of juveniles across the internet using big data, because minors can easily switch from one game to another or log in with a different account to break the set time limit.
Tong Lihua, director of Beijing Children's Legal Aid and Research Center