On Saturday the Chinese government announced a number of changes to the way kids can access and interact with content online, with the National Radio and Television Administration saying “platforms need to step up controls to stop underage users from tipping livestreamers or becoming livestreamers themselves without guardian consent”.
As Reuters report, this comes in the form of two policy changes:
1) Viewers under the age of 18 will no longer be able to “tip”, a practice where those watching a broadcast are able to send small amounts of money, usually in exchange for a spoken or text acknowledgement of their contribution.
2) Anyone watching livestreamed content via a kid’s account will have all streams locked out after 10pm, and those responsible for creating content will “need to strengthen the management of peak hours for such shows”.
Note that none of this is taking place on Twitch or YouTube; instead, China’s biggest platforms are all local services like Bilibili, Tencent’s Huya & Douyu and Douyin, which is basically the Chinese equivalent of TikTok.
These new laws come as part of an effort by Chinese authorities to target what it deems is “chaos” in the social media and livestreaming space, which is being led by both the carrot (a promotion of “appropriate and legal content”) and the stick (restrictions like these).
They’re also part of a wider effort by the Chinese government to tighten its control over the entire video game industry; we reported last month that for much of 2021 a freeze on approvals for new domestic video games had been “devastating” for the industry, with an estimated 14,000 studios/developers closing down before the process got going again. And in 2021 authorities slashed the amount of time kids were able to spend playing games, saying “Many parents have said that the gaming addiction problem among teens and children has gravely affected their ability to learn and study as well as their physical and mental health, even causing a series of societal problems.”