China restricts access to online video games for children

China restricts access to online video games for children

New squeeze, times reduced to three hours a week for under 18s and only on certain days and times. Beijing won't let go of tech giants

Photo: via Unsplash China is still tightening its policy on online video games for kids. The new rules announced these days will allow platforms such as Tencent and NetEase to offer access to gaming to children under 18 for only three hours a week (maximum one per day) on Fridays, weekends, holidays and only from 8 to 9 in the evening.

The news of these restrictions comes directly from the Chinese state press agency Xinhua, which cites the government's National Press and Publication Administration (Nppa). These rules represent a further step forward from a previous tightening decided in 2019. Underage gamers could so far spend an hour and a half a day online and three during their holidays, but could not play from 10pm to 8am.

The new measures also require that all gaming platforms are connected to a state-run anti-addiction system and that all users log in with a real identity. Controls will also be stepped up to ensure companies follow these guidelines. According to Ars Technica, these rules should also apply to offline video games, although it is not very clear how they could be applied.

Chinese authorities have long been concerned about gambling addiction and other online activities, which they consider harmful to young people. The NPP described the new restrictions in Xinhua as "protecting the physical and mental health of minors". A month ago, a Chinese state-run media outlet criticized this addiction by calling video games a "spiritual opium".

Business response

In July, Chinese gaming giant Tencent said it was rolling out facial recognition to prevent children from playing between 10pm and 8am. After the announcement of the new and more stringent measures requested by the authorities, the company was quick to let people know that it is ready to follow the directives and improve the protection of minors.

Although in China a large number of young people play online, platforms can resist this crackdown. In fact, according to reports from the Wall Street Journal, young players represent only a small percentage of the overall revenue of these companies. Tencent, for example, told the American newspaper that only 2.6% of its gross earnings, from April to June, came from Chinese players under the age of 16. Users between the ages of 16 and 18 are already not allowed to spend more than 400 yuan, or about $ 60, on video games every month.

This year, the Chinese authorities have placed many limits on the expansion of the country's technology sector, in response to concerns about monopolies, the power gained by companies in the sector and the possible creation of spaces for dissent against the Chinese Communist Party.

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