Teenagers play online games at a PC cafe in Seoul, in this March 4, 2020 photo. Korea Times file
By Bahk Eun-ji
The government has decided to abolish the game curfew for children, 10 years after the controversial rule was established, as the outdated law is not having any positive effect and does not reflect changes in the gaming environment, relevant ministries said, Wednesday.
They said future policies will be more focused on giving greater flexibility and control to children and parents rather than applying forcible, unilateral measures.
The “shutdown system,” which bans children under 16 from playing online computer games from midnight to 6 a.m., was introduced to encourage children to get enough sleep and protect their health, as game addiction was becoming a social problem. But its effectiveness has been questioned continuously and criticism has been made that it excessively infringes on the choices of young people, along with protests from game companies.
The major cause for the abolishment is the change in the game environment, where mobile games are dominating rather than computer games. Also there have emerged a number of media platforms available for teenagers at night.
“Game platforms have become diverse, with many children now playing mobile games which are not subject to the curfew, so the effectiveness of the system has decreased,” the education, culture and family ministries said in a joint press release. “Also children’s internet use is mainly for watching video clips or using social media rather than playing games.”
The government said that most advanced countries do not have such regulations but leave the issue to the individual or their parents.
“Contrary to the initial goal of protecting children, the state unilaterally limited game use and this could infringe on children’s right to self-determination.”
The government said actual abolishment will take some time because it requires amendment of the relevant laws.
Although the shutdown system is being abolished, another system is still in place, under which minors under 18 or parents can set a specific time limit for game use.
Education Minister Yoo Eun-hae speaks during a meeting with related ministers at the Government Complex Seoul, Wednesday. Yonhap
“In the changing media environment, the ability of children to decide for themselves and protect themselves has become more important than anything,” Deputy Prime Minister and Education Minister Yoo Eun-hae said in a meeting with relevant ministers.
“We will work with related ministries to systematically support media and game-use education at schools, homes and in society so that young people can develop these abilities, and continue to make efforts to create a sound gaming environment and various leisure activities for children,” Yoo said.
To this end, the education ministry will provide education on game-use guidance to parents, guardians and teachers for their better understanding of games.
The Korea Association of Game Industry welcomed the abolition of the rule.
“The shutdown system has choked the nation’s game industry for a long time despite continuous criticism over its ineffectiveness, infringement on children’s rights and weakening of the industry’s competitiveness,” it said in a statement.
“We’ll make efforts for parents to know better about child protection systems already available in each game.”Internet Explorer Channel Network