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Politics

China limits online gaming to 3 hours a week for schoolchildren

Beijing takes more hands-on approach on youth education and lifestyles

Customers play online games at an internet cafe in Fuyang, China. Companies are under growing pressure to limit underage players' access.   © Reuters

GUANGZHOU -- Chinese gamers under the age of 18 will be allowed to play online for just an hour a day and only on weekends, authorities announced Monday, as the government increases its involvement not only in schools but on how youth spend time at home.

Underage video game players will be restricted to 8 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, as well as on public holidays, according to the National Press and Publication Administration. The agency, which issued the rules to gaming operators, is also pushing for registration of users with their real names.

The NPPA in 2019 had limited underage gaming to three hours on holidays and an hour and a half on other days.

The tougher rules come as the Chinese government exerts greater control over youth education. Starting in September, elementary, middle and high school students in Shanghai will be required to learn the so-called Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics. The city of Beijing this month said it will ban foreign educational materials that have not been preapproved by the authorities.

The government is also debating new legislation that will provide detailed guidance on how children should be brought up at home. It aims to foster greater interest in the Communist Party among China's youth through increased involvement in home life as well as ideological education.

Many Chinese game operators had already been restricting the amount of time and money underage players can spend on their platforms in anticipation of Monday's announcement. Tencent Holdings announced earlier this month that it will gradually limit underage players to two hours on holidays and an hour on other days.

Tencent told Nikkei on Monday that it will abide by the even tougher guidelines announced by the authorities.

Youth aged 16 and under make up 2.6% of Tencent's game revenue in China, according to April-June results announced this month. Underage players are believed to also account for a relatively small portion of other game operators' audiences, though companies may be forced to make tough choices in light of the new restrictions.

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