Chinese State Media Says Video Games Are ‘Spiritual Opium,’ Spooking Tech Firms Into Limiting Screen Time For Minors
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After a Chinese state media outlet argued that video games are harmful to children, technology company Tencent immediately announced restrictions on screen time for minors.

Economic Information Daily — a subsidiary of official state outlet Xinhua News Agency — referred to video games with phrases such as “spiritual opium” and “electronic drug” in a now-deleted article. Tencent — a conglomerate technology company whose video game “Honor of Kings” was specifically mentioned in the article — immediately announced screen time limits for school-aged children. 

Nevertheless, Tencent witnessed shares plummet by 6% on Hong Kong exchanges by the close of trading on Tuesday. Shares of NetEase — another video game maker — saw 8% decreases in price.

CNN Business reported that Tencent introduced new restrictions that “will limit the ability for minors to play ‘Honor of Kings’ to an hour on non-holidays and two hours on holidays.” The firm also called for an industry-wide discussion about “the feasibility of banning primary school students under the age of 12 from playing games.”

CNBC explains that Chinese media’s decision to spook the sector is not unprecedented:

For a long time, the Chinese government has been concerned about the impact of video games on minors. In 2018, Beijing froze new game approvals over concerns that gaming was impacting youngsters’ eyesight. In China, online games require approvals from the regulators. In 2019, China brought in rules that banned those under 18 years from playing online games between 10 p.m. and 8 a.m. and restricted the amount of time they could play.

The article — as well as the swift reaction from both executives and investors — comes days after the Chinese Communist Party cracked down on other sectors in the interest of promoting a family-centered social regime. Chinese couples are now permitted to have up to three children — a recent increase from the previous two-child policy, which ended the decades-long one-child policy.

For instance, the Chinese government unveiled new regulations for the nation’s $120 billion private tutoring industry to decrease expenses for families. Chinese parents rely upon costly tutoring services throughout children’s primary and secondary education to improve future performance on college entrance exams.

Officials also implemented an array of housing policies likewise meant to cut costs for larger families. Referring to Chinese President Xi Jinping’s assertion that “housing is for living in and not for speculation,” Vice Premier Han Zheng said that housing in China ought not to be a tool for economic stimulus.

Index funds for the private tutoring and real estate sectors likewise dropped upon the Chinese Communist Party’s tightening of regulations. 

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