China has barred online gamers under the age of 18 from playing on weekdays and limited their play to just three hours most weekends, marking a significant escalation of restrictions on the country’s massive gaming industry.
Starting this week, minors will be allowed only an hour of play time between 8 pm and 9 pm on Friday, weekends and public holidays, according to a statement from Chinese media watchdog the National Press and Publication Administration (NPPA) that was posted by state news agency Xinhua on Monday.
The move represents a huge tightening of earlier limits set by the agency in 2019, which had restricted play to 90 minutes on weekdays and three hours on weekends for children. Authorities said that the restrictions were put in place to help prevent young people becoming addicted to video games.
The NPPA noted this week that the rules were being issued “at the beginning of the new [school] semester, putting specific requirements for preventing the addiction to online games, and protecting the healthy growth of minors.”
“Many parents said that teenagers’ addiction to online games seriously affected their studies, and physical and mental health, leading to a series of social problems, making many parents suffer,” said the unidentified representative, according to a report by Xinhua.
In recent years, the Chinese government implemented a registration system which required people who played computer games to do so under their real names, allowing companies to check up on them.
In a statement Tuesday, Tencent said it had been working on “various new technologies and functions for the protection of minors” since 2017.
“That will continue, as Tencent strictly abides by and actively implements the latest requirements from Chinese authorities,” the company added.