Parents and experts on education and juvenile crime have hailed China's newly introduced regulations targeting online gaming addiction among minors, urging their strict implementation.
The new rules come amid surging concerns about the severe physical and mental impacts of excessive online gaming among children in the country.
Many parents have called for tightened measures to strictly conduct real-name verification of users and shorten time lengths of online gaming services available to minors, said the National Press and Publication Administration, the competent authority that issued the regulations.
Under the new rules, online game providers can only offer one-hour services to minors from 8 pm to 9 pm on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, as well as on public holidays. They must not provide any form of gaming service to users who fail to register and log in using their real identifications.
Wang Jiaqi, mother of a fifth-grader in Beijing's Chaoyang District, hailed the news. Fellow parents in her neighbourhood also lauded the new regulation on social media channels.
"As the companies are trying to boost the design of online games to attract more customers, we parents are struggling to protect our children from 'the scourge,'" she said.
Wang added that online gaming addiction was hindering her son from fostering any hobby, affecting studies, and damaging his physical health, especially eyesight.
Owing to his overindulgence in online gaming, he quit ice hockey training, seldom took part in outdoor sports or talked to his parents, and just stayed at home playing online games, Wang said.
Zhang Yue, a student of No 1 Middle School in Laizhou City, east China's Shandong Province, noted that the new rules will help teenagers, who are curious but not mature enough, stay away from online gaming addiction.
"Some of my classmates are addicted to their mobile phones and online gaming and have no desire to improve their academic performances," Zhang said.
Education and juvenile crime experts believe that apart from affecting academic and normal lives as well as the health of minors, online gaming addiction is also becoming a key factor leading to youth crime.
Li Xiaobo, a research fellow with a think tank affiliated with People's Public Security University of China, noted that there are recurring cases in which some minors seeking to pay for online games resorted to theft or even robbery. Some even had psychological issues and became violent after playing online games for long hours.
"Be it from the perspective of youth crime prevention or the healthy growth of minors, the rules are praiseworthy and are something people have long been asking for," Li said.
On microblogging platform Weibo, a hashtag on the tightened rules against online gaming addiction had generated more than 500 million views and over 60,000 posts, as of Tuesday afternoon.
"Great! Minors have poor self-control and need guidance." commented a user.
Xiong Bingqi, director of the 21st Century Education Research Institute in Beijing, attributed minors' internet gaming addiction mainly to the high accessibility of online games, and the poor performances of parents in guiding and helping children to cultivate hobbies and explore interests.
As strict scrutiny of the internet gaming providers is carried out, greater attention should also be paid to the role of parents as guardians, Xiong said in an interview with Xinhua.
Children should have the company and guidance from parents when first using smartphones, and should be trained by the latter to identify harmful content online and thus develop good internet surfing habits, he added.
"It is the responsibility of enterprises as well as society to help minors enhance self-control, protect their physical and mental health and build a protective shield for them," said Sun Jiashan, a scholar with the Chinese National Academy of Arts.
After the announcement of the new rules, some online gaming companies, when reached out by Xinhua, have vowed to continue to improve services to better prevent minors' addiction to internet games.
China's online gaming giant Tencent said that the company has developed and adopted several new technologies and functions for the protection of minors in recent years, and it will resolutely support, abide by, and proactively implement the new regulations.
The game publishing working committee of the China Audio-Video and Digital Publishing Association said it will cooperate with companies and social welfare organisations to introduce internet literacy training courses targeting minors and those who lack internet literacy.
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