China restricts children's gaming to one hour per day

Gabby Fernie

The Chinese government has banned under-18s from playing online games for more than an hour a day, having labeled them as "spiritual opium".

Earlier rules had limited children's online game-playing to 90 minutes per day, rising to three hours on holidays, in a bid to curb what the authorities described as "youth video game addiction".  This has been changed to just one hour on Fridays, weekends, and holidays. 

The ban will be enforced by online gaming companies which are now required to strictly enforce rules requiring users to register accounts with their real identities in order to play. In July, Chinese gaming giant Tencent announced it was rolling out facial recognition to stop children playing between the hours of 10pm and 8am, amidst fears that children were using adult ID's to circumvent rules.

The regulator said that the purpose of the new rules was to “effectively protect the physical and mental health of minors”. It urged Chinese gaming companies to “always prioritise the social good and actively respond to societal concerns”.

The crackdown on gaming companies was sparked by an article published by the state-run Economic Information Daily that warned teenagers were addicted to online video games and called for the industry to be curbed.

The article prompted significant falls in the value of shares in some of China's biggest online gaming firms.