Gen Z Unplugged
If you’re a teenager in 2021, there’s a high chance that you occasionally play video games on any of your devices, especially if you're a teenage boy. With stressful schedules mixed with school, sports, homework and extracurriculars, these apps and games can be an escape, a way for us to wind down and have some fun after an action packed week or day.
Now, imagine you woke up one morning to the jaw-dropping news that you could only play video games three hours in total throughout the week. This is the reality for minors living in China, as the Chinese government has officially just instituted the restrictive law. Looks like it’s consoles off for Chinese children.
Children and teenagers can now only play their video games from 8pm to 9pm, only on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. Despite the exceptions of holidays, which allow two hours during the day, there’s no getting around this rule and sneaking a few hours in the safety of their own home. China has made it the responsibility of the video game companies to enforce the rule. Companies are now restricting the accessibility of their games to minors in China when it’s not within the specific hours.
What about signing in with fake names? Chinese children can't even do that-- they must be logged in with real name registration or they won’t ever be able to use the games, effectively ensuring that people don’t lie about their true age to bypass the law. The once daily breaks to play games on electronic devices are now occasional moments throughout the weeks.
“should a 7 year old small child and 17 year old young adult be treated the same? Perhaps 17 year olds should be able to use games without violence throughout the week on their mobile devices.”
As could be imagined, many people in China are upset by the sudden change in their lives. Some raise the point that the rule should have more exceptions and details, such that different games for different ages could be excused. A Weibo (social media service) user asks, “should a 7 year old small child and 17 year old young adult be treated the same? Perhaps 17 year olds should be able to use games without violence throughout the week on their mobile devices.”
However, China has so far stayed firm about their plan. To entirely ban something so popular in modern day is shocking. In addition, China is now unable to compete with the ever growing video competition known as Esports, where professional video gamers compete. Teens from other countries will be winning championships before young Chinese residents can truly start their training. Could forcefully excluding the profession of young gamers from the world be detrimental? Is taking away something that teens claim brings enjoyment to their lives more cruel than smart?
At the end of the day, China has the best interests of their future generation in mind. According to a Harvard study, gaming addictions are associated with sleep deprivation, depression, aggression, and anxiety. The brains of minors, specifically adolescents, are most influenced by the things around them and their day to day routines. Spending too many hours playing video games when the physical and psychological aspects of children are being shaped can damage them both in the present and future.
For one, spending too much time playing games can keep youngsters from spending time with their friends and family and forming strong bonds. It can also keep them from exercising regularly, a necessary activity for maintaining proper health. If they prioritize gaming over their work, it can lead them to spending too much time procrastinating instead of completing assignments and studying.
TechRepublic’s 2021 survey reports that video gamers in the United States play an average of eight and a half hours of video games a week. That’s over double what China is allowing their minors now. The matter of China’s new policy came up at my dinner table. My 12-year-old brother and his friends, who play video games almost religiously, exclaimed that we’re never moving to China. They called it unfair to limit what minors can do with their free time.
My parents, on the other hand, were impressed by the initiative of a country. The ambition of upsetting countless teenagers in a place with a total population of 1.3 billion for the greater good is admirable. They even joked that maybe we should try something like that here. It raises the question: is it stifling the freedom of minors to take away their beloved video games? Or is it what will save them and their futures from addiction and unproductivity? Only time and statistics will tell.