The only thing kids love more than video games is…nothing. Because let’s face it, kids LOVE video games. And if we’re being completely honest, who among us hasn’t been guilty of enjoying a game of Super Mario Brothers or two? (Or a thousand, give or take…)
Nothing holds a kid’s attention (while simultaneously saving your sanity) more than gaming time.
Which is probably why it’s rated as the most popular pastime EVER. (At least according to my informal poll of my three kids. So you know, science.)
And, as my kids so lovingly like to remind me as they are begging for “just 3 more minutes until I die,” playing video games does have benefits. It builds small motor skills, boosts cognitive abilities and memory, reduces stress, and significantly improves the speed at which you can make decisions.
Playing video games also fights off the aging process, reducing the chances of Alzheimer’s and dementia later in life. Sign me up!
However, too much of a good thing CAN be bad for you which is why we have screen time limits in our house. It is also what prompted one country to legally limit the amount of time children are allowed to play video games.
China just announced that it is banning minors from playing online video games for more than three hours per week — and prohibiting them completely during school days.
The law is effective immediately.
Any child under the age of 18 can only access online games on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays, and official holidays. And only between the hours of 8 pm and 9 pm.
And that sound you hear? Is the collective wailing and gnashing of teeth of grief-stricken children across China (not to mention their poor parents.)
Just in case kids think they can cheat the system, they’ll have to think again. Cheating is strictly prohibited. In addition to the time limit, China’s National Press and Publication Administration also requires online game companies to register gamers “using their real identifications.” No more user names like “iamawesome123” allowed.
The restrictions are in an effort to prevent video game addiction.
In an interview with the Chinese media, a spokesperson for the Administration said:
Recently, many parents have reported that some teenagers’ addiction to online gaming has seriously affected their normal study life and physical and mental health, and even caused a series of social problems, causing many parents to suffer unspeakably and become a pain in the hearts of the people.
The Chinese state media went so far as to say that online games are “spiritual opium” that are threatening to “destroy a generation.”
According to the New York Post, the measures come as “part of a broader crackdown on tech in the country.”
It’s not the first time the Chinese government has tried to clamp down on video game usage.
In 2019, it introduced mandates only allowing minors to play for 90 minutes per day on weekdays and three hours per day on weekends and holidays. Playing between 10 p.m. and 8 a.m. was forbidden.
Additionally, monthly transactions were capped based on the child’s age. With maximum amounts ranging from $28 to $57. This was great news for any parents who have experienced the agony of a surprise credit card bill for in-app purchases.
Limiting gaming is not the WORST idea.
Video game addiction is real. In 2018, the World Health Organization added “GAMING DISORDER” to its medical reference book, International Classification of Diseases. It is also listed on its website under “addictive behaviours.”
It is officially described as:
A pattern of gaming behavior (“digital-gaming” or “video-gaming”) characterized by impaired control over gaming, increasing priority given to gaming over other activities to the extent that gaming takes precedence over other interests and daily activities, and continuation or escalation of gaming despite the occurrence of negative consequences.
The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry warns about the detrimental effects excessive gaming can cause, including:
- Less time socializing with friends and family
- Poor social skills
- Time away from family time, school work, and other hobbies
- Lower grades
- Less reading
- Less exercise and becoming overweight
- Decreased sleep and poor quality sleep
- Aggressive thoughts and behaviors
All good reasons to unplug.
It isn’t likely that the United States will follow in China’s footsteps anytime soon so your kids (and you) can rest easy.
However, it is a good reminder to check in on just how much time they are spending on their beloved devices.
And to put the phone or iPad down, for a few hours at least. (Or until your child doesn’t stop regaling you with the neverending tales of his Minecraft exploits, and you just can’t take it anymore.)