“By limiting the time of online video games for minors, the Chinese government is making a risky bet”

THEChinese middle and high school students will remember September as the month when their country’s government banned people under the age of 18 from playing online video games for more than three hours a week.

And again, it is not a matter of three hours of your choice, but of three hours fixed authoritatively for Friday, Saturday and Sunday, at the rate of one hour each of these days, between 8 p.m. and 9 p.m. An exception is made for school holidays where there would be the possibility of playing one hour per day in the same time slot.

At a time when many parents and educators denounce the often excessive time spent by new generations on digital tools, and the influence of algorithms intended to keep them there for longer, this decision may seem wise. It obviously requires forms of control that only a dictatorship can put in place but, at a time when more and more alarms are alerting to the abuse of digital tools by young people, some may think that China dares to do so. today what parents and educators will reproach Western governments tomorrow for not having done.

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But to understand the real issue of the Chinese government’s decision, it is necessary to pay attention to two important details: this measure does not concern offline video games or social networks, although the risk of developing practices there problems exist there too, even if it is less important.

The adolescent innovates

What then are these games affected by the Chinese decision? They allow a large number of people to interact simultaneously in a persistent virtual world through avatars. This results in a very strong involvement of the players, with the risk of giving the events that take place there more importance than daily life, but also the development of strong links that can lead to the creation of communities.

The players compete there, of course, but they also build common strategies there, and, sometimes, they happen to talk about other things. Of their private life, even of society. And this is what worries the Chinese government.

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Research in neuroscience has indeed shown that adolescence is a very special period from the point of view of brain skills. On the one hand, from puberty, the child experiences the whole emotional register of adults, and he has largely acquired the modes of reasoning which are theirs. But at the same time, the adolescent has little or no control over his impulses, and in any case, he has what is called a “socio-emotional hypersensitivity”, which leads him in particular to follow the opinion of his peer group rather than that of adults, and adhere to it without hindsight.

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