“Oh, that’s an idea …”: American parents react to China’s ban on screen time

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Gamers play video games at E3, the annual video game exhibition, experience the latest gaming software and hardware in Los Angeles, California, United States, June 12, 2019. REUTERS / Mike Blake

Aug.31 (Reuters) – Raleigh Smith Duttweiler was folding laundry at her Ohio home, her three children playing Minecraft video game upstairs, when she heard a story from NPR about new rules in China that ban adolescents and children under 18 to play video games for more than three hours per week.

“Oh, that’s an idea,” recalls Duttweiler, who works in public relations at a non-profit organization. “My American instinct: it’s kind of a violation of rights and you can’t tell us what to do inside our own homes.

“On the other hand, it’s not particularly good for kids to play as much as even my own kids are playing. And I think it would be a lot easier to turn it off if it wasn’t just to turn it off. arguing with mom, but actually saying “Well the police said so.”

For Duttweiler and many families outside of China, Monday’s announcement of strict social intervention by the country – which regulators said was necessary to end a growing addiction to what he once called ‘spiritual opium’ – highlights the challenge of ruling the use of video games in their own homes, especially during the pandemic.

The Chinese regulator said the new rules were a response to growing concern that games affect children’s physical and mental health, a fear echoed by parents and experts in the United States.

Paul Morgan, a father of two teenagers and a Penn State professor who studies the use of electronic devices, sees loopholes in the ban while acknowledging the challenge of controlling children’s screen time. “These electronic devices are ubiquitous,” Morgan said. “It’s really hard to keep the kids away from them.”

Still, Morgan says negative associations with screen time are especially evident for heavy users, perhaps due to shifting activities like exercise or sleep. The ban does not apply to the use of social media, which is considered particularly harmful to girls. And some populations, such as students with disabilities, can benefit from the social interactions that video games provide.

Shira Weiss, a New Jersey-based publicist for tech clients including a video game company, sees value in games that help her 12-year-old twin sons stay connected to their peers, but wants to better limit the frequency with which they play more violent games.

“I think the Chinese rules are good,” Weiss said. “You always say, ‘Play video games,’ but you’re just setting limits.” She added, partly joking, “Can they come here and put this restriction on my house?”

Michael Gural-Maiello, who works in business development at an engineering company and has an 11-year-old son, believes parents should be the ones to regulate the use of video games by their children.

“I don’t think governments really have a place to tell parents how their children should be spending their time,” Gural-Maiello said. “China has a rotten record in tech in general. I’d be much more worried about my son using apps from China that collect data than playing Mario Kart for him.”

(This story is passed on to remove unnecessary quotes in paragraph 2)

Report by Helen Coster in New York; Editing by Sandra Maler

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.


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