China has introduced regulations that restrict children under 18 to just three hours of online gaming each week, one hour max each day.
The new limits were published yesterday by China's State Press and Publication Administration, which wrote that online gaming has become a "prominent problem, which has a negative impact on normal life, learning and healthy growth".
The regulations therefore allow online gaming companies to serve minors for only three hours each week – from 8pm to 9pm on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Kids get an extra hour of play on public holidays. Previous limits allowed 90 minutes of gaming daily, and three hours on weekends.
Gaming companies have been ordered to enforce registration strictly – using players’ real names – not to try getting around regulations with temporary accounts or trials, and warned that failing to comply will have severe consequences.
The Administration allowed one of its officials to conduct a Q&A session with state-owned Sina News, and that exchange explains the ban is needed because a majority of Chinese parents think gaming has impacted kids' "normal study life and physical and mental health, and even caused a series of social problems, causing many parents to suffer unspeakably and become a pain in the hearts of the people."
The time limits are framed as essential to protect kids' physical and mental health – and the health of China itself – because healthier kids will be better contributors to the nation's development.
The Q&A also offers the following analysis of why online games need to be curbed:
Every generation of teenagers will have their own games. Online games are interactive, immersive, emulated, easy to operate, and naturally more attractive. Minors are still in the stage of physical and mental development, and their self-control ability is relatively weak. They are prone to overuse online games and even become dependent.
The administration spokesperson also explained why Beijing has left kids three hours a week to play: it thinks some games are OK. The spokesperson named Chess, Go, and programming as games upon which Beijing smiles.
The new policy also calls on schools, the Communist Youth League, the Ministry of Education, the All-China Women's Federation, and any other institution that cares about China to help enforce the new regulations. Kids who use their parents' accounts to circumvent the ban, or buy credentials from adults, are warned they'll be singled out for special educational attention.
The gaming industry was also urged to … erm … play nice with the new regs, by engaging with schools, parents, and teachers to help them understand how to avoid gaming addiction.
The industry has no choice but to do as it's been asked, even if it will damage businesses.
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Beijing has long distrusted gaming, fearing that it does not reflect Chinese values, is unproductive, and anti-social for people of all ages.
In recent weeks China has also cracked down on online celebrity fan clubs, fearing they've become home to anti-social behaviour, and called for swift deletion of amateur investment commentary that sometimes floats fictions to the advantage of their authors.
Beijing's policies may be working: the recently published 48th Statistical Report on Internet Development in China that we reported yesterday said that while China had 509 million gamers as of June 31st 2021, that represents a decrease of 8.69 million compared to the population in December 2020. ®