China is the first country to have slapped a ban on online video game in order to check children's and youngsters' rising addiction to this particular type of entertainment. More than 14 per cent of the 33 million children under the age of 16 there are addicted to the internet. The Chinese authorities are seriously concerned about the young generation's health, particularly its deteriorating eyesight. A Chinese national vision report found in 2015 that nearly 500 million Chinese - about half the population above five years old - were suffering from poor eyesight. Of them, 450 million were near-sighted. The ailment was caused in many cases by exposure to excessive screen time.
So, the General Administration of Press and Publication of China has moved to curb the screen time for children and teenagers. Internet addiction is considered a clinical disorder in China. On this count the United Nations has been rather tardy in recognising this mental malady as such. Taking cognizance of the threat, now China has come hard upon the gamers, in fact, of all groups.
The regulations are spelt in clear terms so that actions can be taken against violation of those. First, all online gamers must register their ID details with their providers -no fake ID will be entertained. Next, gamers younger under 16 years of age will not be allowed to play game for more than one and a half hours on weekdays and for more than three hours a day at weekend or on official holidays. They are also strictly prohibited to play online games between 10pm and 8am. Internet users under the age of eight will not be allowed to play games requiring payment. Even how much money their elders can spend a month on such games or on a single game has been fixed. Such caps have been introduced with the aim to stop draining out of incomes of their parents. The authorities had to be cautious in order to stop undesirable income erosion. Last year, an 11-year-old girl there spent her parents' life savings of £1,200 by using her mother's old phone. This is so because such games require constant top-ups.
China has not only taken due cognizance of the economic aspect of gaming, it has also identified the psychological damage caused to youngsters as a result of playing excessive games. An increasing number of that country's children ignore studies, social lives and families -all because they spend too long a time on video games. More than the financial loss perhaps the psychological one is more telling. Children addicted to games develop an unreal vision of the world and cannot connect them to practical life. In some cases they become a burden on families and society.
Entertainment that restricts healthy development of mind ultimately proves no less pernicious - if not more - to an individual and society in general. But involved in the video game industry are powerful commercial interest groups of the world. It is not easy to keep them at bay. China with its economic muscle power may be a match for them. But in developing and rising countries like Bangladesh, it can be difficult. Yet, there is no harm in being cautious about the phenomenon in the interest of young generations; Bangladesh should follow the best practice methods when evolved.
After all, there is no point allowing games that incite criminality in young and impressionable minds. The country may have to pay heavily in the future if such online games infiltrate the land unrestricted and bereft of any educative value.
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