As part of China’s crackdown on children becoming addicted to video games, firms are having to use new technology to limit screen time to youngsters – instead of encouraging it.
Tencent Holdings, a leading tech company in China, is tightening up the checks it carries out on players’ ages when they sign up to play games online. The move forms part of China’s plan to tackle gaming addiction.
Earlier in 2018, Tencent added a mandatory registration system on Honour of Kings, one of the company’s most popular games. The system checks gamers’ identity and age against a database held by the police. The registration system is being rolled out to all Tencent games in 2019 according to reports.
The move means that children aged under 12 will only be able to play the game for one hour in any 24-hour period. Older children will be able to play for up to two hours, but there will be an overnight curfew in place to prevent them from playing when they should be sleeping.
The company added real-name registration to encourage players to stick to the rules and even carried out facial recognition trials earlier this year.
The first limit on game time was introduced in 2017 following pressure from regulators who grew concerned about the amount of time young players were spending on the game. Authorities are concerned in particular about the potential negative effects of gaming on children’s eyesight.
New media scare
Over the years the potential adverse effects of new media have come under fire. Be it comic books, novels or films, when they were first introduced society has been concerned about their influence on young people, and that they could perhaps negatively affect young viewers or readers.
Gaming is the latest in the wave of new media to stir up this concern, but the argument in today’s society is a potential for increased violence and shortened attention spans as a result of over consuming games.
In its latest move to restrict the impact of gaming on young children, the Chinese government is therefore acting as a trailblazer in the regulation of child marketed games. Not only is the government cracking down on the approval of new games, but it even stopped approving new games at all in October 2018.
As a result, shares in gaming company Tencent have fallen for the first time since 2015, with profits finding themselves down by as much as 28% since the start of the year. This could be problematic for the industry, though. Gaming is thought to be worth around $140bn annually worldwide, and is growing at 13% a year.
While the Chinese approach may seem harsh, it is not the only country looking to combat this growing issue; both Japan and South Korea have passed laws aimed at regulating the video gaming industry.
Games are increasingly being seen as potentially addictive, and the content, which at times can be of a violent nature, has not been available long enough for governments and charities to have data on the effects of overuse.
However, concern about the amount of time youngsters are spending playing games is not limited to Asia; Western countries are also keeping a close eye on how the limited programs work.
Especially now China has implemented such a ruling, governments across the world are curious as to how they could be applied locally. Lawmakers in both Europe and the US are becoming increasingly concerned about the potential ill effects the games could be causing.
According to the Economist, world leaders will be keeping a close eye on what China plans next.
Tencent stepping up
Indeed, Chinese tech giant Tencent has announced a new partnership this week where it will partner with five mobile phone manufacturers to bolster its anti-addiction system in the hope of counteracting gaming addiction.
Last year, Tencent also launched a “growth guardianship platform” that allows parents to supervise and limit online playtime, as well as the gaming content their children can access. Currently, more than 10 million accounts are linked to this platform, and 82% of them indicate a decrease in children’s gaming times, according to the company.
However, in a heavily criticized move, Tencent released a security update in October that linked its gaming system to China’s national public security database, allowing the company to better vet players’ names and ages on all of the company’s games by 2019. Critics believe that this was a step too far, and restricted children’s privacy.