China Sets Video Game Curfew to Curb Addiction Among its Youth
Thu, January 27, 2022

China Sets Video Game Curfew to Curb Addiction Among its Youth

/ Photo by Sam Wordley via 123rf


Something is certainly wrong when kids begin to prioritize gaming over school, food, or even sleep. Video game addiction has become so severe that the World Health Organization officially declared it as a mental health disorder. Earlier studies showed that the prevalence of internet gaming disorder has gone up to 26.8 percent worldwide with China being among the highest with 17 percent.

Now, the Asian giant is looking to curb gaming addiction with its implementation of online gaming curfews. The curfews were announced last week through a document issued by China's General Administration of Press and Publication.

Curbing video game addiction

According to the new regulations, underage gamers are not allowed to play online games between 10 P.M. and 8 A.M. the following day and will only have 90 minutes of playing time on weekdays. They will have up to three hours to play during weekends and public holidays.

Along with the curfews is a restriction on the amount minors can spend on online game purchases. The new rules will only allow up to 200 yuan ($29) a month of purchases for gamers aged 8 to 16 and 400 yuan ($57) for players between 16 to 18, British daily newspaper The Guardian reported. It added that the new regulations also require minors to log in using their real names and identification numbers.

Implementation of the gaming curfews is the government's latest action to control China's online gaming industry, one of the biggest in the world. According to an unnamed spokesperson, who talked to state news agency Xinhua, companies and online platforms are mandated to enforce the restrictions that should also serve as a "guide" for parents.

The spokesperson added that the government will also ban sexually explicit, bloody, or violent games, along with those that feature gambling.

People are sharing their sentiments on microblog Weibo regarding the new curfews. The Guardian reported that most users doubt the efficacy of enforcing the new limitations and believe that minors might use their parents' identification number when logging in, which many are actually doing now to bypass age restrictions.

China is the second-largest gaming market next to the US with its total gaming revenue reaching an estimated $36.5 billion so far this year.



A mental disorder

The WHO classified gaming addiction as a mental disorder last year and was included in the 11th edition of the agency's International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11).

Gaming disorder is defined as a "pattern of gaming behavior characterized by impaired control over gaming, increasing priority given to gaming over other activities to the extent that gaming takes precedence over other interests and daily activities, and continuation or escalation of gaming despite the occurrence of negative consequences."

Diagnosing someone with this condition is only done when that person exhibits severe behavior patterns resulting in significant impairment in personal, family, social, educational, occupational, or other important areas of functioning and would normally have been evident for at least 12 months.

The inclusion of gaming disorder in the ICD-11 was based on reviews of existing evidence as well as a consensus of experts from various disciplines and regions involved in the process of technical consultations in developing the classification guide.

"The inclusion of gaming disorder in ICD-11 follows the development of treatment programs for people with health conditions identical to those characteristics of gaming disorder in many parts of the world," the WHO said, adding that it will result in raised attention of health professionals to the risks of development of this disorder and establish prevention and treatment measures.


Creating a clear internet space

China's new regulations aim to protect both the physical and mental health of its youth and build a safe space for them online. The government also has plans that will address the concerns regarding the efficacy of the new restrictions.

Chinese government officials said they will provide "more powerful support" to joint efforts between the country's public security ministry and key agencies to develop a thorough identification system that can stitch any loopholes.

The unnamed spokesperson said they will enhance the functions of an identification system "to share gaming time data across platforms so we can know and restrict the total time every minor spends on gaming across platforms."

The new rules may come as a surprise but this isn't the first time that the Asian giant made a move to increase the regulation in the gaming industry. According to Vice, an online global media channel, China announced that they plan to limit the new releases of games to "reduce nearsightedness in children and adolescents."

It’s also been clamping down on all online gaming companies operating in the territory, which includes Tencent. To address China's criticism, Tencent limited the allotted game time to an hour a day for users aged 12 while users between 12 and 18 were limited to two hours a day of gaming. The game company also required users to prove their age and identity upon logging in.


China's new regulations aim to protect both the physical and mental health of its youth and build a safe space for them online. / Photo by lightfieldstudios via 123rf