Children can be cute, giggly and prone to tantrums. But according to China's top broadcast regulator, what they can no longer be is featured on Chinese reality television.
In new guidelines issued by the State Administration for Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television, children — especially children of celebrities —have been banned from participating in reality television shows.
The aim of the ban, said the state-run news agency, Xinhua, which first reported the guidelines on Sunday, is to protect the children from the pitfalls of "overnight fame."
The regulations are the latest in the government's continuing efforts to rein in the fast-growing online television industry. Last month, new rules issued by two industry associations, including one state-sanctioned organization, outlined a comprehensive policy that included a ban on depictions of gay relationships, underage romance, extramarital affairs, smoking, witchcraft and reincarnation.
Some experts said the latest guidelines appeared to be aimed specifically at hugely popular shows like Hunan Television's "Where Are We Going, Dad?" and Zhejiang Television's "Dad Is Back," both of which feature children of celebrities.
Based on a South Korean television show with the same name, "Where Are We Going, Dad?" took off after its premiere in China in 2013. The show, which follows five celebrity fathers and their children as they travel to rural destinations and complete assigned tasks like cooking meals, attracted more than 75 million viewers for the first episode of its latest season. It has led to spinoff films, multiple parenting books and millions in advertising revenue.
The former N.B.A. basketball player Yao Ming and the actor Liu Ye have both appeared on the show. Several of the children on the program have received lucrative endorsement deals. The third and most recent season ended in October.
Ma Xue, a Beijing-based reality television producer, said she thought the broadcast regulator issued the new guidelines "because they don't want people to see differences between classes."
"On these shows, if you are the child of a celebrity, then you become a celebrity by birth," she continued.
"This could have a negative social impact," she added. "You can't have class differences starting from childhood."
Both shows are said to have halted future production because of the new guidelines, according to Xinhua. Some experts said that the new ban might also affect shows that don't feature celebrity children, including some imported foreign programs like Fox's "MasterChef Junior," which is airing on the Chinese online streaming website iQiyi.
Government regulators appear to have been closing in on reality television shows for months. The broadcast regulator hinted at the new restrictions in a notice issued last July that was made public only in March. That document was broader in scope and specified general guidelines for the management of reality shows in China, calling for them to "actively incorporate socialist values" and "pay attention to the masses and avoid being overly focused on celebrities."
Minors should be excluded from reality programs as much as possible, the guidelines went on to say.
The extra focus on reality television appears to be in line with the broadcast regulator's tendency to apply extra scrutiny to video personalities who go viral or to programs with large followings. On Monday afternoon, the state-owned People's Daily newspaper reported that a hugely popular online celebrity and comedian nicknamed Papi Jiang had been censored by the broadcast regulator for the frequent use of vulgar language in her satirical videos.
On Monday evening, Ms. Jiang posted a response on her public WeChat account.
"As an independent media worker, I will pay more attention to my language and image, resolutely respond and rectify and reform according to online video requirements so that I can transfer positive energy to all," she wrote.
Still, the growing hostility toward "Where Are We Going, Dad?" in recent months is something of a reversal for the government.
In a 2013 op-ed published in People's Daily, which is an official mouthpiece of the government, the commentator Liu Yang praised the show for placing "family love at its core."
"The deep affection on display in the show," the op-ed added, "is heartwarming and ignites a desire in people to return home to loved ones."