China has achieved nothing by limiting time in video games for children - gamer activity has increased, study shows

The Chinese authorities have long expressed concern that the young generation of citizens pays too much attention to computer games, and therefore try to limit such activity by law. However, studies by independent experts show that in practice such measures do not bring the desired result.

Aug 14, 2023 - 13:06
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China has achieved nothing by limiting time in video games for children - gamer activity has increased, study shows

At least, British and Danish researchers have come to this conclusion after studying the statistics of game application developer Unity. Between August 2019 and January 2020, players around the world spent 7.04 billion hours playing games on this engine, of which 2.4 billion hours were spent by users from the PRC. Since the statistics did not separate users by age, we can only estimate the dynamics of gaming activity of Chinese gamers as a whole.

From August 2019 to October 2019, when the PRC authorities had not yet introduced restrictions on the duration of gaming sessions for underage citizens of the country, the owners of approximately 0.77% of gaming profiles in the Unity accounting system could be classified as avid gamers. These players were assumed to spend at least 4 hours a day on their favorite pastime for six days a week.

In November 2019, the PRC authorities limited the duration of gaming sessions for minors to 90 minutes per day, but Unity statistics showed that 0.88% of registered users had already started abusing gaming. When in 2021 the Chinese authorities further limited the duration of gaming activity for minors to three hours per week, Unity's statistics for the region were again not particularly affected. In fact, the measures taken by the authorities did not bear the desired fruit.

Lawmakers in the People's Republic of China now propose to limit the use of tablets and smartphones to 40 minutes a day for citizens under 8 years old, for the category from 8 to 15 years old to increase this limit to one hour a day, and for citizens aged 16 and 17 years old to raise it to two hours a day. Developers of applications and devices are invited to introduce a mechanism of "parental control", which will not allow underage users to overcome these limits on their own. However, with the permission of parents it will be possible to do so. By the way, the citizens of the People's Republic of China under the age of 12 are proposed to be prohibited from installing applications without parental permission. Citizens in the category from 12 to 16 years of age will be able to download and install applications that correspond to their age rating, or with parental permission if the rating is not suitable.

The experience of restrictions introduced in the PRC shows the spread of various kinds of tricks when users try to circumvent them. These include using other people's accounts and creating fake accounts with the necessary criteria. In all likelihood, the new initiative, if implemented in practice, will encounter similar abuses.

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