China gives parents control over kids’ gaming

Distressed by reports of an epidemic of video game playing, China’s Ministry of Culture will next month launch a ‘parental watch program’ designed to crack down on games-obsessed kids.

Online games companies will be required to set up a web page and enquiry line to enable parents to monitor their childrens’ playing. They’ve been told to hire extra staff.

Parents – who will have to be able to prove that they are actually the official guardian of a minor – will be able to limit the time spent online and bar access to games they feel are unsuitable.

The ministry has suggested guidelines – kids should spend less than two hours per week playing and spend no more than $1.50 on online games per month.

According to official news agency Xinhua, the ministry tested the system out this time last year with several companies, and says it was “effective in helping juveniles overcome addictions to online games”.

A 2009 study found that over 10 percent of Chinese college students were internet addicts, and tough-love clinics have sprung up all over the country promising to deal with them. Famously, two years ago, one such clinic was found to have beaten an inmate to death, and last year one group staged a mass break-out.

With the new program, China is taking a leaf out of neighbour South Korea’s book. Last year, Korea responded to reports that nearly 40 percent of its male students were addicted to games by banning play after midnight.