China is stepping up its war on underage video games online and not everyone is happy

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Children in China are waking up to the first weekend this morning with drastic new rules limiting the time to play online.

Children under the age of 18 are prohibited from Monday to Thursday from Monday to Thursday and are only allowed to play for one hour on Friday, Saturday, Sunday and public holidays.

According to authorities, the ban is intended to protect the physical and mental health of children.

But not everyone is convinced.

Yan Zhiming, a father from Nanjing, east China, questioned the necessity of the rules.

“Most parents organize an enrichment course for their children,” he said, referring to activities like physical education and music classes.

“[So] the little ones don’t have much time to play [online]. “

Mr. Yan said it was up to the parents to take responsibility.

“There is no denying that some children are addicted to games, but I believe they inherit the bad hobby from their parents,” he said.

Some parents say that no government controls are necessary

Experts say that many online games are designed to get players to invest as much time and money in them as possible.(

Unsplash: Eugene Chystiakov / ABC Life: Luke Tribe

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China’s new restrictions have also sparked debate among Australian parents.

Ken Yin, a Sydney sider who moved to Australia from Guangdong Province in 2006 and is raising three children, said there are already ways for parents to control their children’s online gaming habits.

“My kids play online games. We have software that can control them, ”said Yin.

“You can set up parental controls on Microsoft, Google, and Apple devices and systems, such as how long you stay signed in to your computer and what games you can play on the phones.

Hugh Davies, an expert in mobile gaming at RMIT University in Melbourne, emphasized the influence of parents and urged them to act as role models.

“It is also very important for parents to think about how much time they spend in front of the screen, from the television to the laptop to the mobile phone,” said Dr. Davies.

“Not only to be role models for their children, but also for their own health.”

China’s fight against a “spiritual opium”

A man with glasses is playing a video game on a phone.
Chinese children are now banned from playing online games Monday through Thursday.(

AFP: Chandan Khanna

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China has been concerned with gambling addiction or gambling disorder for years, and some state media have described online games as “spiritual opium”.

According to the China Internet Network Information Center, more than 30 percent of Chinese children suffered from a gambling disorder in 2018, which was recently recognized as a disease by the World Health Organization.

In addition to time limits, China’s new rules also require all online games to be linked to a government anti-addiction system, while gambling companies are prohibited from offering services to users without real ID registration.

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Molly Zhao, a self-employed single mother from Sydney, said she really likes China’s approach.

She said it was a constant struggle to keep her daughter from playing online games for hours.

“I’m usually very busy at work and I can’t keep checking whether she is studying or playing games,” said Ms. Zhao.

“I understand my daughter and I am sorry. She feels lonely during the COVID lockdown and can catch up with classmates and friends through these games.

“But sometimes she could go on playing for two or three hours. It’s too much.”

Molly Zhao
Molly Zhao says she sees the benefits of China’s new rules of the game.(

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Ms. Zhao said she finally agreed with her daughter to delete game apps from their devices.

“Then my daughter can play her games and I don’t have to monitor it.”

Dr. Davies said there are benefits to online gaming too and that has been underestimated at times.

“Here in Australia, parents confessed to me that they turned off the electricity to keep their children from playing online at night,” he said.

“But it’s also important to remember that games are more than escape and entertainment for children.

Impact on a billion dollar industry

Tencent's reception.
Tencent, the largest gambling company in China, fell on news of the new rules.(

Chinatopix via AP

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The new rules had an immediate impact on China’s lucrative online gambling industry.

Tencent and NetEase, two of the country’s major gaming companies, fell this week after the rules were announced.

However, analysts believe the long-term impact on gaming giants will be limited.

According to China’s Gaming Industry Report, there were total revenue of more than 150 billion yuan ($ 32 billion) from 667 million Chinese gamers in the first half of 2021.

Tencent said players under the age of 16 accounted for just 2.6 percent of its gaming income in China.

Online gaming companies have started adopting new methods to ensure that the latest rules are followed.

However, it has been reported that some Chinese children are using fake IDs, while some illegal websites sell software that can randomly generate adult ID numbers.

Tencent informed the ABC that it was using new technology to protect children.

“Tencent strictly adheres to the latest requirements of the Chinese authorities and actively implements them,” a spokesman said in a statement.

Tencent recently introduced facial recognition technology and an algorithm that identifies underage players based on their time, how long they played and how they behaved in the game.

Despite the company’s assurances that facial recognition technology will only be used for the common good, there are concerns that a sophisticated surveillance system could be built that could provide even more information to algorithms.

Ethics experts say it is a space that needs to be watched.

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