Parents given control of child accounts in online addiction fight
Parents will be allowed direct control of their children's accounts on mainland-based online game websites, as the central government tries a new strategy to curb addiction.
The Parental Supervision Project would be launched jointly by eight departments including the Ministry of Public Security on March 1, Xinhua reported last week.
Under the programme, parents may choose to tell game website operators at what times the children will be allowed to play each week and for how long, or to block the account entirely. The operators, such as shanda.com, are being ordered to set up a hotline and web pages to respond to parents' inquiries and observe their children's accounts.
But one issue is how effective the project will be. Both parents and children have already expressed doubts, saying it is easy for children to register new accounts and access to the internet from anywhere, not just at home. It is too convenient for any real regulation to work well.
The mainland has 33 million teenage internet addicts, according to a recent estimate by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. Early last year, a national survey by the China Youth Internet Association found more than 24 million, or 14 per cent, of young people in mainland cities were internet addicts, while another 18 million had developed some symptoms of internet addiction.
This is not the first time mainland authorities have issued a joint notice to curb the growing addiction problem. In 2007, eight ministries and central government departments issued a notice and required all domestic online video game operators to install an anti-addiction system that forces young players to log out after playing games for more than five hours a day.
Under the system, youngsters who play more than three hours a day will earn only half of the game's points, and children will earn no points if they play more than five hours a day.
The anti-addiction system, although hailed by the media and parents, has proved unable to stop addiction. The mainland now has an estimated 457 million internet users, and more than 60 per cent of them are adolescents.
The government's efforts have even appeared to lack co-ordination over how much gaming is too much. In 2008, a controversial national guideline said anyone who stayed online for more than six hours a day for more than three months would be classified as having a mental disorder.
A year later, the Ministry of Health formally clarified that internet addiction was not a mental disease and banned any type of physical punishment or surgery to cure it. That decision followed the death of a teenage boy at an internet rehabilitation camp in Guangxi .
Many groups have been offering desperate parents options such as electro-shock therapy, surgery, medicines and physical drills to cure thousands of internet addicts since 2005.