Pro­tect­ing ju­ve­niles from game ad­dic­tion

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - VIEWS -

Ar­ti­cle 19 of the Gen­eral Rules of Civil Law says: “A mi­nor at­tain­ing the age of 8 is a per­son with lim­ited ca­pac­ity for civil con­duct (or lim­ited dis­pos­ing ca­pac­ity), who shall be rep­re­sented by his or her statu­tory agent in per­form­ing ju­ridi­cal acts or whose per­for­mance of ju­ridi­cal acts shall be con­sented to or rat­i­fied by his or her statu­tory agent, but may alone per­form ju­ridi­cal acts which purely ben­e­fit the mi­nor or are com­men­su­rate with his or her age and in­tel­li­gence.”

Dis­pos­ing ca­pac­ity means the men­tal abil­ity or state of mind at which a per­son should pos­sess to pre­pare a valid will. It is also known as tes­ta­men­tary ca­pac­ity.

And Ar­ti­cle 20 of the law says: “A mi­nor un­der the age of 8 is a per­son with­out ca­pac­ity for civil con­duct, who shall be rep­re­sented in per­form­ing civil ju­ridi­cal acts by his or her statu­tory agent.”

Ac­cord­ing to the two ar­ti­cles, if a le­gal dis­pute were to arise over ju­ve­niles’ ad­dic­tion to on­line games, their statu­tory agent should per­form civil ju­ridi­cal acts in their in­ter­ests. And any con­tract a child be­comes a part of or the pay­ments he or she makes will be valid un­der the law only af­ter his or her le­gal rep­re­sen­ta­tive con­firms it. Which means game providers can­not force a child’s le­gal rep­re­sen­ta­tive to take up the fi­nan­cial re­spon­si­bil­ity of the child’s ac­tions un­der any cir­cum­stances.

This also means, if chil­dren buy on­line game equip­ment us­ing their par­ents’ bankcards, game providers and soft­ware devel­op­ers have the re­spon­si­bil­ity to check who ex­actly is mak­ing the pay­ment, even if they have to use spe­cial tech­nol­ogy for that.

But some game providers and soft­ware devel­op­ers say it is dif­fi­cult to de­ter­mine a user’s iden­tity in the vir­tual world, and there­fore they can­not be blamed for chil­dren’s ad­dic­tion to on­line games and the

money they squan- der on them.

But a se­ries of laws and reg­u­la­tions has made real-name reg­is­tra­tion manda­tory. Be­sides, we can learn from the rules of coun­tries that re­quire game providers and soft­ware devel­op­ers to de­sign tar­geted pro­tec­tive mea­sures for ju­ve­niles. For ex­am­ple, pub­lic li­braries in de­vel­oped economies such as the United States have in­stalled spe­cial soft­ware to pre­vent chil­dren from in­dulging in on­line games or brows­ing porn web­sites. In fact, lat­est tech­nolo­gies can be em­ployed to iden­tify on­line game users, so game providers can use the ac­cu­mu­lated data to pro­tect chil­dren against ad­dic­tion. To be hon­est, game providers such as Ten­cent have started us­ing tech­ni­cal mea­sures to curb chil­dren’s gam­ing time.

Game providers and soft­ware devel­op­ers can­not ab­solve them­selves of the re­spon­si­bil­ity of em­ploy­ing ef­fec­tive tech­ni­cal mea­sures to pro­tect chil­dren against on­line game ad­dic­tion. If they don’t do so, they should be held re­spon­si­ble for the le­gal con­se­quences.

I have two sug­ges­tions in this re­gard. First, the au­thor­i­ties should fur­ther strengthen the Cy­ber­se­cu­rity Law. Only stricter reg­u­la­tions, some of which could be ap­plied to spe­cific cases, can pre­vent soft­ware devel­op­ers and game providers from tak­ing ad­van­tage of the le­gal loop­holes to con­tinue their busi­ness as usual.

Sec­ond, as the Stand­ing Com­mit­tee of the Na­tional Peo­ple’s Congress is re­view­ing the draft “Elec­tronic Com­merce Law”, I sug­gest on­line games and game equip­ment be brought un­der the purview of the law, mak­ing it manda­tory for soft­ware devel­op­ers and game providers to closely in­spect the users and pur­chasers and thus dis­al­low ju­ve­niles to “trade” in vir­tual prop­erty. If the game devel­op­ers and pro- viders fail to do so, they should be held ac­count­able for the con­se­quences.

Only when strict rules on the le­gal re­spon­si­bil­i­ties of game providers and soft­ware devel­op­ers are for­mu­lated can they be made to adopt tech­ni­cal mea­sures to pro­tect chil­dren from ad­dic­tion, which forces some of them to use their par­ents’ bankcards to make pay­ments.

It is equally im­por­tant for par­ents to ful­fill their du­ties to­ward their chil­dren. And par­ents should al­ways re­mem­ber what Ar­ti­cle 34 of the Gen­eral Rules of Civil Law says: “A guardian fail­ing to per­form the duty of guardian­ship or in­fring­ing upon the ward’s law­ful rights and in­ter­ests shall as­sume le­gal li­a­bil­ity.”

The au­thor is a pro­fes­sor of law at Wuhan-based Zhong­nan Univer­sity of Eco­nomics and Law.

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