February 27, 2024

China’s strict restrictions on how long minors can play online video games have tightened. Chinese children and teenagers are prohibited from playing online games on school days and are restricted to one hour per day on weekends and holiday evenings, according to government regulations issued on Monday.

The rules, released by the National Press and Publication Administration, tightened restrictions from 2019 onwards, aimed at what the government has called the growing scourge of online gambling addiction among school children. Under the old rules, players under the age of 18 were limited to a maximum of 90 minutes on weekdays and three hours per day on weekends.

The parents complained that this was too generous and that it was enforced laxly, the administration said. The new rule sets the permitted playing time on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays at 8 p.m. to 9 p.m. The government said it would step up inspections to make sure the gambling companies are enforcing the restrictions.

“Recently, many parents have reported that some teenagers and children ‘s gambling addiction is seriously affecting their normal study, life, and mental and physical health,” the administration said in an online question-and-answer statement about the new rules . Parents have called for “further restrictions and reductions in the time that minors are made available through online game services”.

The new rules also reflect the government’s increased urge to abandon businesses, which the Chinese Communist Party calls unhealthy influences, especially among teenagers and children.

“Some teenagers just don’t listen to their parents’ discipline and these policies can control them,” said Lily Feng, a worker in Shenzhen, southern China. She said her 10-year-old daughter was less interested in online gaming than she was in Douyin, the Chinese equivalent of TikTok, but added that the new limits are a good example.

“I think that’s the right policy,” she said. “It boils down to the state taking care of our children for us.”

Last week, the Chinese government launched crackdown on teenage worship and fan clubs, warning that celebrities’ pursuit of online followers is distorting youthful worth. China’s Cyberspace Administration on Friday banned celebrity ranking by popularity.

Online gaming is one of the most dynamic and profitable sectors of China’s internet industry, generating billions in revenue from gamers who pay to participate in online quests, wars and adventures. However, there are signs of growing official pressure on companies to adhere more strictly to the cultural compliance demands of Xi Jinping, China’s leader.

China’s Ministry of Education in April ordered online gaming companies to ensure that minors cannot play games after 10 p.m. every school night. In early August, Tencent Holdings and other major Chinese video game companies fell sharply after a Chinese newspaper labeled their products “spiritual opium”. The article highlighted Tencent, which owns Honor of Kings, a very popular game in China.

China’s firm grip

    • Xi’s warning: A century after the founding of the Communist Party, China’s leaders say that foreign powers “would break their heads and shed blood” if they tried to stop their rise.
    • Behind the Hong Kong acquisition: A year ago, the city’s freedoms were being curtailed at breakneck speed. But the crackdown took years and many signals were overlooked.
    • One year later in Hong Kong: Neighbors are asked to report to each other. Children are taught to look for traitors. The Communist Party is rebuilding the city.
    • Mapping China’s Post-Covid Path: China’s leader Xi Jinping tries to balance trust and caution as his country moves forward while other places continue to grapple with the pandemic.
    • A challenge for US global leadership: While President Biden predicts a battle between democracies and their adversaries, Beijing seeks to stand up for the other side.
    • ‘Red Tourism’ is flourishing: New and improved attractions dedicated to the history of the Communist Party, or an adjusted version of it, draw crowds ahead of the party’s centenary.

Chinese parents complained that children were constantly finding new ways to push the limits of playtime, according to a report released in August by the state-funded Beijing Children’s Legal Aid and Research Center. Many parents, the report said, “reported that their children had major changes in their temperament and personality after becoming addicted to games, even as if they had become a different person.”

Tencent, which was already reducing the time minors could spend on Honor of Kings, said it will adhere to the new restrictions. In its latest financial release, the company announced that in the second quarter of 2021, players under the age of 16 accounted for just 2.6 percent of its gross revenue from Chinese gambling.

“Since 2017, Tencent has researched and applied various new technologies and features for the protection of minors,” a Tencent spokeswoman said in a statement. “This will continue as Tencent strictly adheres to the latest requirements of the Chinese authorities and actively implements them.”

Raymond Zhong contributed to the coverage. Liu Yi contributed to the research.