China battles internet addiction

AFP has details of a new policy rolled-out in China aimed at giving parents control of kids’ online gaming habits, a bit issue in the country where 33 million teenagers are reported to be addicted to the internet.

Chinese authorities have ordered online video game operators to allow parents to monitor their children’s playing sessions as part of a nationwide crackdown on the growing problem of Internet addiction.

The Ministry of Public Security was one of eight government departments that issued a joint notice on Monday ordering online gaming companies to comply with the new guidelines by March 1.

Upon proving their identity, parents will be able to put daily or weekly restrictions on their child’s game playing time, the notice said. They would also have the option of putting in place a total ban.

This move takes Chinese control of the internet to a new level and the AFP article includes comments from a parent and a university sociologist.

The notice also spelled out that online game companies had a responsibility to help parents restrict “inappropriate” video game playing.

It urged game operators to employ special staff to assist with the project and to set up web pages and hotlines.

The document suggested children should spend less than two hours a week playing online games and should spend no more than 10 yuan ($1.50) on online games a month.

Managing again teen internet addiction is a big issue in many other Asian countries. So how does China’s suggestion compare to the others?

— In response to news that 5-10% of Singaporeans were internet-addicts, an official from one of the country’s covenant family service centres suggested that if a child is “out of control”, the parents can go to court and have the child put in a home.

— A Beijing-based internet cafe came up with the idea of being ‘teens only’ and giving each young visitor a maximum time of two hours online.

— Last year China drew up plans to force online gamers to register with their real names to restrict minors’ access to – unsuitable content and regulate those abusing the internet.

— While Vietnam went one stage further and introduced a public internet curfew to prevent youngsters frequenting internet cafes and other places where they can get online and indulge their web addiction.

One critical factor when it comes to identity is that revealing one’s true identity online is not observed by many markets in Asia where fictitious names are commonplace. Any proposal working against that is going to encounter difficulties.

The of limiting access to public internet during evenings and weekends, and leaving parents to marshal their own internet connections at home seem like the best approach but, as one commenter in the AFP article, said, stopping children from doing what they want only makes them rebellious.

Does China’s approach stand any chance of working?