China cuts kids’ video game time to 3 hours per week to prevent nearsightedness and addiction

If you think your parents were strict about screen time and video games as a kid, China has taken it to a new extreme. The government issued new rules this week limiting online gaming to three hours per week for everyone under age 18. No gaming is allowed during the school week, and kids will be allowed to play one hour a day on weekends and national holidays. 

The government’s move is aimed at curbing nearsightedness and gaming addiction in kids, according to Washington Post video games reporter Shannon Liao

The rules apply to PC and mobile gaming, and might impact kids who are trying to break into the e-gaming industry.

“China has this growing esports scene. And it's home to the world's biggest PC games, one of them is ‘League of Legends.’ … Every year they compete for cash prizes, and the top winners in the past few years have been Chinese players — usually young kids who have been practicing for years through childhood and then are now able to compete at that high level,” Liao tells KCRW.

She adds, “I don't think that they could really compete at that level anymore if they can only play for three hours a week. It's not very much training at all.”

So how will it work? Liao says the Chinese government will rely on gaming companies to ask users for their real names and ages. That information would allow the government to verify the ages of players if needed. 

Liao points out that the new regulation isn’t expected to hit companies too hard. She uses the example of Tencent, which shared (in a recent earnings call) that minors make up about 2.6% of its gaming base. 

However, she says there might be workarounds to the rule: Some parents might still allow their children to play video games.