Online gaming: Chinese children banned from schoolnight play and limited to hour at weekends

Parents complained that old 90-minute weekday rule was too generous and laxly enforced

In a move that parents everywhere might be tempted to applaud, China has tightened its already strict rules about how long children can play online video games for. Chinese children and teenagers are now banned from online gaming on school days, and limited to one hour a day on weekend and holiday evenings under government rules issued on Monday.

The regulations, released by the national press and publication administration, tighten restrictions from 2019 aimed at what Beijing says is a growing scourge of online-game addiction among schoolchildren. Under the old rules, players younger than 18 were limited to 90 minutes of gaming on weekdays and three hours a day at weekends.

Parents had complained that was too generous and had been laxly enforced, the administration says. The new rule sets the permitted gameplay hour to run from 8pm to 9pm on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. The government says it will step up inspections to ensure that gaming companies are enforcing the restrictions.

Some teenage kids just won't listen to their parents' discipline, and this policy can control them... It amounts to the state taking care of our kids for us

“Recently many parents have reported that game addiction among some youths and children is seriously harming their normal study, life and mental and physical health,” the administration says in an online question-and-answer explanation about the new rules. Parents, it says, had demanded “further restrictions and reductions in the time provided for minors by online gaming services”.


The new rules also reflect the government's intensifying push for companies to jettison what the Chinese Communist Party says are unhealthy influences, especially among teenagers and children.

"Some teenage kids just won't listen to their parents' discipline, and this policy can control them," says Lily Feng, a company worker in Shenzhen, in southern China. She says her 10-year-old daughter is less interested in online games than she is in Douyin, the Chinese equivalent of TikTok, but adds that the new limits set a good example. "I think this is the right policy," Feng says. "It amounts to the state taking care of our kids for us."

Last week the Chinese government initiated a crackdown on teen celebrity worship and fan clubs, warning that celebrities’ pursuit of online followers was warping youths’ values. China’s cyberspace administration on Friday banned ranking celebrities by popularity.

In April China's ministry of education ordered online gaming companies to ensure that minors could not play from 10pm each schoolnight. Chinese parents complained that children constantly found new ways to sneak past the limits on gaming hours, according to a report issued in August by the government-funded Beijing Children's Legal Aid and Research Centre. Many parents, it said, "reported that their children had big changes in their temper and personality after becoming addicted to games, even as if they had become another person". – A longer version of this article first appeared in The New York Times