China fears young people are addicted to video games. Now it’s imposing a curfew

China is banning online gaming platforms from providing services to minors between 10 p.m. and 8 a.m., in the latest move to tighten regulations on the gaming industry. (Ivan Abreu/Getty Images)

China has announced a curfew on online gaming for minors among new measures aimed at curbing video game addiction.

The official government guidelines will be applied to all online gaming platforms operating in the country, mostly notably Tencent, the world’s biggest gaming company.

Under the new rules, gamers aged under 18 will be banned from playing online games between 10 p.m. and 8 a.m. On weekdays, minors can only play for 90 minutes, while they may play up to three hours per day on weekends and public holidays.

The guidelines also place restrictions on the amount of money minors can transfer to their online gaming accounts. Gamers aged between eight and 16 years old can only top up 200 yuan ($29) per month, while the maximum amount for those between 16 and 18 will be 400 yuan ($57).

China is the world’s largest gaming market, accounting for a quarter of global revenue, according to market research firm Newzoo. It expected China’s total gaming revenue to reach $38 billion in 2018.

The document was issued by China’s General Administration of Press and Publication on Tuesday.

Speaking to the state-run Xinhua News Agency, a spokesman for the administration said the new rules were aimed at creating a “clear internet space” and “protecting the physical and mental health of minors.”

“(This notice) has emphasized on the responsibility of the corporations, and has executed the government’s duty to supervise the problem,” the spokesman said.

He said that government units would be required to study the rules and ensure corporations abide by the requirements.

The administration is also working with police to set up a real-name registration system, and to enable gaming companies to check the identity of their users against the national database, he added.

The new guidelines are China’s latest move in an ongoing campaign to increase regulation of the gaming industry.

In August 2018, Beijing announced plans to limit the number of new online games to “reduce nearsightedness in children and adolescents.” It also criticized a popular mobile game, “Honor of Kings”, for allegedly causing addiction in young people in 2017.

Addiction to gaming, known officially as Internet Gaming Disorder (IGD), was added to the World Health Organization’s International Classification of Diseases for the first time in June 2018.

IGD is diagnosed when an online gamer plays compulsively to the exclusion of other interests, including school and family life.

A 2018 study carried out by researchers at the Shanghai Jiao Tong University School of Medicine showed that men may be more susceptible to gaming addiction.

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