Children face night time ban on playing computer games

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Children under 18 in China will probably be banned from online gaming activities at night (12am-8am). This may be done to help the youth get rid of the Internet addiction that is a huge problem nowadays.

Such restrictions were first drafted by the Cyberspace Administration of China the previous week. The Administration suggests that young people use their ID papers when registering on online gaming services. The information would be used to prevent those under 18 years old from playing during the night till 8 am.

If the paper is officially approved, this will show another attempt of the Chinese government to tell people there is danger in this addiction to the Internet gaming.

This also started some talks that more underage youth may be taken to the so-called Internet addiction centers.  The administration said that schools should work with institutions to help minors with internet addictions: a disorder that China became the first country to officially recognise in 2008.

In July 2014, China’s 1.3 billion population included 632 million internet users and the government said that 24 million of those were addicts.

Internet addiction treatment centres, whose patients are often teenagers taken out of school, have caused controversy because of their tough, military-style techniques. Beijing’s China Young Mental Development Base, for example, locks up its mainly male teenage inmates every night and forces them to undergo army-style exercises. The centre also offers so-called “cures” for homosexuality and staff members have been seen punching patients.

In 2016 a 16-year-old girl from the northern Heilongjiang province was accused of murdering her own mother in an apparent revenge attack for forcing her to go to an internet addiction centre. Staff at the centre were accused of being violent towards their patients.

Wang Qiushi, a lawyer, told the South China Morning Post: “This is a disaster for Chinese teenagers. More such bootcamps might emerge after the passage of this regulation.”

Su Jun, a web game developer from Shanghai, said that the proposed nightly ban would have repercussions for the games industry. “There is usually a period after midnight when we see a large number of players, and some of them are teenagers,” he said.

Many young Chinese online gamers play in internet cafés, which authorities and parents often have a dim view of, associating them with vice and considering them a distraction from education. A crackdown on illegal internet cafés led to 2,000 of them being closed in 2014.

Increasing numbers of young gamers though are playing on smartphones rather than computers or consoles. Statista, a statistics database, estimates that China has around 563 million smartphone users.

Yue Xiaodong, a psychologist at the City University of Hong Kong, who has studied internet addiction in China, welcomed the draft rules. “Such regulations should have come out a long time ago,” he said. “Now the smartphone is replacing computers as the new cause of addiction. It will become a major social issue if we don’t pay attention.”

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