In the post-pandemic digital world, access to the Internet and digital devices grants unlimited possibilities, but at the same time also creates new risks and threats, especially for its younger users.
It’s every kid’s nature to play, and as technology advances online gaming has becoming an increasingly prevalent pastime that is completely virtual. The shift led some experts and parents to raise their concerns: except from causing addictiveness, online games could potentially lead to of excessive online spending, mental health and even a withdrawal from reality, all of which, included in the so-called “Gaming disorder”.
According to DQ Institute, Child Online Safety Index (COSI), the world’s first real-time measure to better understand children’s online safety status, China is rated as “average” with an index of 55 (The index goes up as the estimated safety level increases). That result stands close to that of US – 51. Among the countries with the highest index are Australia (75) and Spain (76).
As China cracks down hard on underage games, what strategies are the rest of the world implementing in order to protect children in online gaming? We have complied a list of different country’s regulation to protect minors from excessive gaming below.
German authorities are considering a new legal regulation that could ban gamers under 18 to play all video games with loot boxes: in-game purchases when players don't know what's inside the box until they buy it. According to the national newspaper Der Spiegel, the parliament of the country is working on Youth Protection Act which could set an age limit for playing games and thus protect children from being affected by the negative impact.
Belgium is following Germany in banning games with loot boxes. According to statement from government, “gaming should be treated in the same way as gambling”.
As Belgium Gaming Commission states, loot boxes "go in violation of gambling legislation of the country”. Authorities are able to impose severe fines and sentence to the prison those violating these regulations.
As a part of country’s new measures to protect children’s data online, the UK government is implementing a new policy towards video streaming and gaming platforms.
As Stephen Bonner, Executive Director at the UK Information Commissioner's Office suggests, “Some of the biggest risks are currently coming from social media platforms, video and music streaming sites and video game platforms.” It led to new regulations in gaming for children. From now on, online games advertisements will not be played on the websites or in the apps automatically. Besides, businesses won’t be able to track the location of minors or advertise for them with the goal to impose behavioral compulsions.
Members of UK Parliament have also proposed new regulations of the games which use loot boxes. They believe loot boxes should be regarded as gambling and banned to younger gamers.
Following examples of Germany and Belgium, Spain intends to prevent children’s gambling in online games by prohibiting loot boxes. These measures are implemented under the Ministry of Consumption.
In recent years, the cases of children committing crimes and even suicides due to online gaming became more prevalent in India. This led to numerous petitions to the court calling to implement strict regulations of online games for children and solve minors’ gaming addiction problem. Some of the Indian states, such as Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana have banned online games for children. Their neighboring states are planning to follow these examples. Violations can lead to up to six months imprisonment.
Though Australia is considered to be one of the countries with the highest level of online safety for children, there is still a huge space to improve, especially in online gaming. A report by Digital Australia state that 97% of Australian households with children have at least one device for playing video games. More than 60% of households have five and more devices. What's more, in Australia children’s in-game purchases comprise more than 30% of all purchasing in the games. These numbers are shocking.
One of the measures implemented by Australian government is online games classification: they must be marked according to a certain category in order to be sold.
Known for probably the strictest measures around online gaming, China appeared in the headlines of all main media just a couple of days ago. And the reason for that is country’s new regulations: from now on, gamers under 18 can’t spend more than one hour of online gaming a day between 8pm to 9pm.
The National Press and Publication Administration will check the online gaming companies and assure new regulation’s implementation.
This step is one in the series to combat children online game addiction, calling it "spiritual opium". Previously, China limited time for young game players to 90 minutes and three hours per day on holidays.
Chinese companies implement stricter measures as well. Earlier, online gaming giant Tencent launched a facial recognition system to prevent minors playing games from 10 PM till 8 AM.
Although the measures are different, the concern over minor’s gaming time are shared and on the rise. On the path towards a safer, healthier internet use, countries take inspirations from one another in order to shield younger users from potential risks, towards an balanced entertainment experiences where there is no place for addiction, gambling and bulling.