Chinese regulators release rules limiting underage user access to games

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Chinese regulators on Tuesday rolled out the first round of guidelines aimed at curbing game addiction among users under 18, state media Xinhua reported.

Why it matters: Chinese regulators and lawmakers have made the prevention of game and internet addiction a major priority in recent months. While attempts to limit underage users from excessive online activities has been ongoing for years, previous efforts from regulators were generally vague “notices” which included no detailed standards.

  • Industry giants Tencent and NetEase launched their own anti-addiction systems several years ago and have been adding more monitoring and parental control features.

Details: The General Administration of Press and Publication announced on Tuesday new guidelines which, among others, prohibit gaming companies from providing game services to users under 18 between the hours of 10 p.m. and 8 a.m.

  • Underage users are allowed to play for up to three hours per day during legal holidays such as Spring Festival but are otherwise limited to 1.5 hours of playtime per day.
  • The new rules emphasize the importance of real-name registration, urging game developers and publishers to root out attempts to bypass this step, such as minors using parental IDs to register game accounts.
  • Under the new guidelines, gaming companies are required to prevent users below eight years old from spending any money on games. Users between 8 and 16 can spend up to RMB 50 per in-game purchase, but cannot spend more than RMB 200 per month. For users between 16 and 18 years old, limits for both are double.
  • The new rules outlined punishments for companies that do not comply, giving local regulators the authority to revoke operating licenses of repeated and severe offenders.
  • The guidelines also tightened control over game content for all users, categorically prohibiting sexual, gory, violent, and gambling-related content in games.

Context: Chinese regulators have been trying to popularize anti-addiction systems beyond the video game industry to the short video and video-streaming industries beginning early this year.

  • At the request of the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC), short video app Douyin and Kuaishou in March rolled out their respective anti-addiction systems, “youth mode,” which restrict underage user access on the platform.
  • The CAC in May also ordered four major video-streaming platforms, including Tencent Video and iQiyi, to implement their own anti-addiction systems for underage users.

Short video app Kuaishou launches youth control feature