Opinion: Online games should be next online for crackdown

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The central government recently introduced sweeping new rules to ease the educational burden on schoolchildren. The document also requires that students be guided to use electronic devices rationally, limit time spent online, and prevent Internet addiction. A state media commentary Tuesday accused gaming companies of creating “spiritual opium” of gambling addiction that harms children’s academic and personal development.

the new rules easing the burden of excessive homework and off-campus tutoring has dealt an unprecedented blow to the after-school tutoring industry. Many expect the gaming industry to be the next target for surveillance. Some of the measures taken to restrict off-campus tutoring are likely to apply to the gaming industry as well, such as ordering operators to register as nonprofits and prohibiting them from funding activities.

Guiding lines restrict tutoring institutions offer curriculum-based tutoring on weekends, holidays or during winter and summer vacations. But it has raised concerns among many parents who fear that the crackdown on tutoring will only push their children into online games.

Address concerns with regard to online gambling addictions by minors, the authorities have taken many measures, but to no great effect.

For example, gaming platforms must restrict registration of minors, improve anti-addiction systems and actively limit the annual playing time of minors. A Notice 2019 requires strict control over the timing and duration of underage online gambling. From 11:00 p.m. to 8:00 a.m., online gaming companies must not provide gambling services in any form to minors. The cumulative online play time of minors cannot exceed 1h30 per day or 3h per day on weekends and holidays. In addition, minors under the age of 8 are not allowed to access paid gaming services provided by online gaming companies.

However, the anti-addiction system hardly performs any function.

It is easy for minors to access online games with an adult account. According to a media survey, some students play games all day long, which fully demonstrates the uselessness of the anti-addiction system. The underlying cause is that for-profit gaming platforms relaxed restrictions and failed to identify underage users by facial recognition when authorities relaxed their oversight.

A long-term problem facing the surveillance of gaming platforms is how to protect minors without affecting adult entertainment and consumption. If a gaming platform serves both adults and minors and its games are accessible to both groups, the platform may bypass oversight measures to protect minors on the grounds that it serves adults. In addition, it is difficult for regulators to monitor minors and adults separately.

The recently revised law on the protection of minors, which entered into force on June 1, declares that the country will establish a unified system of electronic authentication of the identity of minors in online games. By law, online gaming service providers must require minors to register and log in to all online games with real identity information. Gaming companies should also categorize their products by making age recommendations and taking technical measures so that minors are not exposed to inappropriate games or gaming functions.

One solution would be to create a rating system for the games. Regulatory authorities should clearly define standards for the classification of games, direct the classification of games, and require game developers and operators to provide services to adults and minors in accordance with classification standards and provisions.

However, such a system would not be easy to implement in China, as some parents lack guardianship awareness and cannot effectively guide their children to access appropriate games.

Thus, a more effective regulatory measure would be to restrict funding and for-profit investment in the gaming industry. Since online gaming is a kind of “cultural product” that has a significant impact on the growth of minors, it It is necessary to strengthen supervision on the supply side. Under the new Education Business Directive, off-campus training institutions are required to register as non-profit businesses and are prohibited from raising funds on the capital market. Such a regulatory measure could also be considered for the gaming industry.

If all gambling operators were to register as nonprofits without access to capital markets, most of them would likely close their doors. Without excessive capital investment in the gaming industry, the supply of gaming products would decrease dramatically. Parents may no longer feel like they are fighting game operators for their children’s time.

China has been dedicated to developing child-friendly public interest games, but these games are less competitive than commercial games developed by for-profit developers.

China’s gaming industry has grown into a giant industry worth hundreds of billions of yuan, but it has also resulted in 20% of minors becoming addicted to games. Gambling addictions not only hurt families, they could even destroy a whole generation of minors. In fact, regulation of the gaming industry should be more stringent than that of the teacher training industry. Regulatory authorities are determined to “wipe out” the teacher training industry with a production value of more than 1,000 billion yuan, so there is no reason why they should indulge in the development of education. gaming industry, which is more detrimental to minors.

Whether the focus is on online tutoring or online games, regulatory crackdowns aim to create a better environment for children. In addition to the bans, the education of schools, families and society must be improved, helping children to learn more about society and daily life and promoting wider interests.

Xiong Bingqi is vice president of the 21st Century Education Research Center.

The views and opinions expressed in this opinion section are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the editorial positions of Caixin Media.

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