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China bans children from late-night gaming to combat addiction

China has imposed curfews on minors playing video games to combat what the government says is a serious addiction “harming the physical and mental health of minors”.

In regulations released by the National Press and Publication Administration on Tuesday, gamers under the age of 18 are now barred from playing online games between 10pm and 8am. During the week, minors are allowed just 90 minutes a day, an allotment that stretches to three hours on weekends and public holidays.

The new rules also limit the amount of money spent in online games to 200 yuan ($29) a month for those between the ages of eight and 16, and 400 yuan ($57) for those between the ages of 16 and 18. Minors will be required to use their real names and identification numbers to log on to play.

The curfews are the latest government measure to rein in China’s online gaming industry, one of the largest in the world. Companies and online platforms are required to enforce the new rules, which should serve as a “guide” to parents, an unnamed spokesperson for the press and publication administration told state news agency Xinhua.

According to Xinhua, the new measures are “guided by” Xi Jinping thought on socialism, the writings espoused by China’s leader. Last year he criticised video games for contributing to myopia in Chinese children, putting pressure on officials to control the industry.

Following Xi’s statement, China’s education ministry said last year that it would implement new regulations on on the number of online games allowed, limit the number of new game releases as well as reduce the amount of time minors spent playing.

Under Xi, Chinese authorities have also launched a clean-up of online or media content deemed “unhealthy”. A spokesman for the office said that under the new regulations, sexually explicit, bloody or violent games, as well as those that feature gambling, would also banned.

On the microblog Weibo, users doubted how well the new curfews would be enforced. Minors could use the identification numbers of their parents, as many currently do to get around age restrictions. “The higher ups have policies. Those lower down have counter policies,” one user said, quoting a Chinese idiom on the ways people find to get around government directives.

But officials said they would provide “more powerful support” to collaboration between China’s ministry of public security and relevant agencies to build a thorough identification system that would plug any loopholes.

“We will also gradually improve and enrich the functions of an identification system to share gaming time data across platforms, so we can know and restrict the total time every minor spends on gaming across platforms,” the spokesperson said.

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