Online game operators in China will be required to provide services for parents to monitor their children's game-playing in the latest effort to prevent minors becoming addicted to Internet games.
A notice issued on Monday by eight central government departments, including the Ministry of Culture and Ministry of Public Security, ordered the implementation of the Parents' Guardian Project for Minors Playing Online Games on March 1.
Under the plan, which was first introduced on a pilot basis in February 2010, all online game operators must cooperate with parents in monitoring their children's online game-playing.
As long as the parents can prove their identity as guardians and the gaming account of their children, the game operators should follow the parents' request to restrict their young children's online game-playing, including setting a limit on the daily or weekly playing time or even imposing a total ban.
The operators must also regularly monitor the game account and help parents to prohibit or restrict the inappropriate playing of online games, the document said.
It also urged game operators to employ special personnel and to set up special webpages and hotline services for the project.
The document suggested a school student play online games for less than two hours every week and spend no more than 10 yuan ($1.5) on playing online games every month.
The move is the latest effort to address growing Internet addiction among minors as statistics from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences suggest the number of teenage Internet addicts in China has risen to 33 million.
However, experts have expressed doubts about the likely effectiveness of the move.
"It's a governmental gesture rather than an efficient solution," Gu Jun, a sociologist from Shanghai University, told China Daily. Gu said a good intention does not always lead to a feasible method.
"The parents, whose underage children get addicted to online games, are also victims, and how can you expect such a move to eliminate a family conflict?" Gu said.
Gao Wenbin, a psychology specialist at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, said most people in China addicted to the cyber world were aged between 15 and 20, and 80 to 90 percent of them concentrated on games.
Gu said the government should regulate Internet cafes that unscrupulously accept minors and game operators instead of bothering parents.
It is estimated that the country had 200,000 authorized Internet cafes by the end of 2010.
According to Macao Daily News, 457 million Chinese netizens are now sharing 250 million IP addresses, which means many of them use Internet cafes.
The General Administration of Press and Publication said this month the country's online game industry's annual sales reached 32.4 billion yuan last year, a year-on-year increase of 26.3 percent.
Xie Guangji, a 38-year-old parent in Cangzhou, Hebei province, said he won't respond to the regulation because he is already managing the game time for his 14-year-old son, a junior middle school student.
"It's unnecessary and it will prompt more rebelliousness from the children," Xie said.
This move is not the first time the government has addressed Internet addiction among minors.
In August 2010, the Ministry of Culture issued the Interim Provision of Real-Name Registration of Online Gaming to prevent minors from becoming addicted to cyber games.
"The kids can easily use a fake adult ID to get back into the game. They can just hide from their parents," said Liu Kun, a 27-year-old gamer in Beijing.