Should Hong Kong follow mainland China's tightened gaming time limits for kids? One party thinks so

video games, Vincent Cheng Wing-shun, Tencent Holdings, NetEase, esports

Hong Kong’s largest political party suggests that the city heed recent developments in mainland China and impose limits on gaming time, along with real-name registration, to curb local teenagers’ growing addiction to video games.

The Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, known as DAB, said it conducted this month an online survey of 463 parents in the city and found that more than 95 per cent of them want authorities to roll out measures that can prevent video game addiction among minors.

More than 50 per cent of those surveyed said their children played online games for more than three hours a day, while nearly 20 per cent said their kids played video games more than five hours each day, according to the DAB.

“Right now, we can only see zero protection from game developers who’ve adopted a freewheeling attitude over teenagers playing online games,” said DAB lawmaker Vincent Cheng Wing-shun at a press conference on Thursday. He urged Hong Kong authorities to learn from what the mainland was doing to tackle gaming addiction among minors.

At the press conference, DAB called on video game developers to help supervise the kids who use their online gaming services and censor content that may be harmful to them.

Cheng indicated that if the developers took no action, then that would warrant government intervention.

“The developers allow teenagers to play games with obscene or violent content, and make in-game purchases,” said Cheng, who described the current situation as unacceptable. “Authorities should ban games with obscene, bloody and violent content, and forbid in-game purchases that cater to minors.”

The DAB’s survey echoes the concerns raised by the Hong Kong Christian Service, a non-government organisation that conducted a poll of 2,020 primary and secondary school students between February and March this year.

The NGO found 56 per cent of those polled agreed or were inclined to agree that they had spent more time playing video games during the Covid-19 pandemic. The survey, however, did not specify how many more hours they spent on gaming during this period.

video games, Vincent Cheng Wing-shun, Tencent Holdings, NetEase, esports

Lawmaker Vincent Cheng Wing-shun urges Hong Kong authorities to learn from mainland China’s efforts to tackle video gaming addiction among minors. Photo: SCMP

The National Press and Publication Administration (NPPA), China’s top watchdog for gaming and other forms of online media, last month issued new rules that limit gaming time for players aged under 18 to between 8pm and 9pm on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and statutory holidays. The rules also cap in-game spending to 200 yuan (US$31) a month for those aged between 8 and 16 years old and 400 yuan per month for 16- to 18-year-old gamers.

The NPPA’s rules also directed video gaming companies to strictly implement real-name registration and login systems in all of their games.

Chinese video gaming giants, including Tencent Holdings and NetEase, have rushed to comply with the new three-hour weekly restriction for minors, rolling out new features and preventing underage esports athletes from joining tournaments.

The country’s gaming industry regulator has created a special website that encourages the public to report companies for any violation of state regulations designed to protect kids from video gaming addiction.

The latest regulations over video gaming has not been extended to Hong Kong under Beijing’s “one country, two systems” model of governance.

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