Should 3 Hours A Week of Gaming Be The law?

China has just launched new video gaming restrictions for kids under 18: Kids cannot play video games (on computers or phones) during the week, limiting their video gaming from 8 pm to 9 pm, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, and on public holidays, totaling no more than 3 hours per week.

The last time China made restrictions for youth was in 2019, which stated that gaming could only be done for 1.5 hours each weekday and banned gaming from 10 pm until 8 am. Also, they set the maximum hours allowed for weekend days and holidays to three hours total.

Why these rules? 

The Chinese government has provided several reasons for these policies, such as concerns over video game addiction, nearsightedness, failing academics, and more. Xinhua News Agency is the official state-run press agency of the People’s Republic of China. In an article, they quoted a spokesperson from the government agency responsible for announcing the new policy:

“Teenagers are the future of our motherland, protecting the physical and mental health of minors is related to the people’s vital interests, and relates to the cultivation of the younger generation in the era of national rejuvenation.”

Are the rules enforced?

Last week I called an acquaintance in Beijing who is a father of a teen boy. The dad explained that many youth in China bypass the time-limit restrictions by signing on with their parent’s identities. He was not sure if his son was doing this. He mentioned that he had not heard many parents and or kids talking much about the new restrictions, and he thinks this is because it will be hard to enforce. 

I have read many accounts from news sources reporting similar sentiments from other people in China.

Yet, that said, the stock prices of gaming companies did take a nosedive after these new time restrictions got instituted. 

For quite a while, the Chinese government has been trying to reign in the power of tech companies, and they are letting gaming companies know that they will be paying close attention to see if the companies enforce the rules with their under 18-year-old users.

So what to make of this?

This new law is clearly a major move by the government. The world’s biggest game company is Chinese-owned Tencent. There is a high likelihood that our kids know games that Tencent either owns or has a stake in, such as “Call of Duty,” “Fortnite,” and “League of Legends.”

China is far more severe in its steps than many countries, but other governments have instituted some limits. For example, Germany passed laws making game developers replace realistic red blood with a green version. Australia is working to ban portrayals of drug use and violence to some degree in games. 

What do I think? 

Video game time restrictions by the Chinese government is an extreme move that I do not believe will get fully implemented, nor do I think it should be. I don’t want to get into the politics of China. However,I think this topic is ripe for discussion — in what ways should governments and public institutions address the availability and impact of the gaming industry on our youth?

I have been hearing different reactions from adults on this topic. A friend of mine who works in tech in Silicon Valley and has kids wrote this to me about China’s new decree:

“Fascinating that China is demonstrating leadership on this… I’d love to see the gaming and social media giants do the same in the US, but pure capitalism is unlikely to allow this.”

Meanwhile, here are a couple of examples of reactions on this topic from our Facebook page:

I.H. says:
“I doubt that will happen in reality. I bet old tech like DVD-based games will make a comeback which will take away the social aspect of gaming, further exacerbating the ‘only child syndrome.’ Hopefully, there will be opportunities for sports and clubs. I could be mistaken, but most preteens and teens don’t have brothers and sisters, right? The policy allowing 2 children just started in 2016.”

K.A. says:
“This is not a decision to be made by government in a free nation. But it should definitely be a wake-up call to us as now the youth in China will need to find a more productive way to spend their time while our youth is … playing video games.”

What do your kids and students think? 

Ideas to get the conversation started:

  1. What would your reaction be if there was a law restricting video gaming to three hours a week?
  2. Can you think of things you think the government should regulate regarding video games and people younger than 18? Things they should not regulate? 
  3. Should our public institutions, such as schools and community centers, offer alternatives to video gaming, such as the wide availability of in-person sports and other activities?