It’s Game Over for Addicted Gaming kids in China – so what now for them?

In a bold and pre-emptive move, China’s video game regulator has declared that online gamers under the age of 18 will only be allowed to play for an hour between 8pm-9pm on Fridays, weekends and holidays.

This latest news comes after earlier rules had limited children’s online game-playing to 90 minutes per day and three hours on holidays. 

Chinese authorities have long been concerned about gaming addiction and other harmful online activities among the Chinese youth and earlier this month a state media outlet branded online games as ‘spiritual opium’.  Content such as games is already tightly controlled in China and the regulator said that the purpose of the new rules was to ‘effectively protect the physical and mental health of minors’.

But what does this mean for youths in China?

Whilst many applaud the move, there are also some large question marks over the decision. During the pandemic online gaming effectively became the most important and relevant form of social interaction for millions of children worldwide as they gamed with friends in a virtual world – talking, laughing and connecting whilst playing games online. Taking away this ability to connect at a time when the world remains so full of uncertainty could lead to increasing mental health issues – rather than the authorities’ goal of improving mental health.  

Many parents have also been voicing their concern that their children should learn to set their own limits and take responsibility for their own decisions – thereby equipping them for adult life. Or indeed, that time limits should be agreed and set with their parents rather than by the authorities. There is a worry that such rigid regulation will not allow for critical thinking or independent analysis and that kids will not learn the consequence of their actions if the parameters under which they act is always dictated for them.

Nevertheless, parents and children will not be the ones who face punishment for breaking the rules. Instead, China will require all video game companies that operate in the country to set up real-name verification for players, so that children can’t break the rules by using fake accounts.

So what now for the ‘netizens’ of China?

On the flip side there is some support for the ruling as many children are battling to adapt to real life social interaction following the months of lockdown and it is hoped that this move will encourage children to leave the screens and get outside. In addition to addressing mental health and addiction the ruling will no doubt aid physical health, given gamers spend multiple hours in a sedentary position.  

ACTAsia inspired activities to provide an alternative to gaming

With gaming hours slashed and more time on their hands it is hoped that an increasing number of children in China will seek out alternative recreation. ACTAsia run an award-winning programme called Caring for Life Education for children (CFL) which is a unique six-year curriculum for all primary school years. It encompasses social welfare and citizenship, animal welfare and environmental issues and recognises the interdependence of all living things. 

ACTAsia has rolled out the CFL programme in 9 Pioneer Schools and following student feedback, these schools have launched extra-curricular clubs based on CFL topics such as recycling, gardening, friendship, crafting and repurposing recycled objects. With gaming hours now off the cards, it is hoped that children will come to embrace these activities in their newly discovered free time – applying what they are learning in their CFL lessons and applying it to the wider world – outside of the virtual world.  

By engaging children in such positive activities which promote animal welfare, the environment, social interaction and planet conservation, ACTAsia hope to inspire a new generation of compassionate youths who use their time constructively. In helping children learn to Care for Life, ACTAsia are supporting them to help themselves – and take all important decisions for themselves.   It’s Game On for the new generation.

Through your kind and generous support, ACTAsia have initiated Caring for Life Education programmes for gradual and sustainable change in Asian societies.  Please help us expand our network to even more societies by donating today.