Homework, not gaming, was the top reason cited by teenage respondents for going online, according to a study by Tencent Holdings, which is facing public scrutiny over its role in policing gaming addiction among youths.
Besides online research, the other top reasons for going online include reading online novels, getting English translations, sports and poetry. Girls pay more attention to drama, pop music, celebrities news, food, make-up and online shopping, while boys are into comics, games, jokes and pranks, according to the Tencent study, which was conducted jointly with Communist Youth League of China and Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
Teenagers view games differently from their teachers and parents, according to the study, which talked to 13- to 18-year-olds across 100 schools. To the teens, games can improve intelligence and “puzzle games” are preferred over “purely exciting games”, according to the survey.
Tencent released the findings of the survey ahead of Children’s Day, which falls on June 1 in China. The results paint a picture of a digitally savvy generation that is coming of age during the era of the mobile Internet. About 60% of the respondents first came into contact with the Internet between the ages of six to 10, and more than 90% did so through the smartphone.
The day before the study was released, a commentary carried by Xinhua Net, the online platform of the state-run news agency, criticised game developers including Tencent for not taking adequate measures to prevent gaming addiction among young people.
“With the Children's Day nearing, we'd like to remind all Internet game companies to balance between business interest and social responsibility, shoulder the responsibilities they need to take and do what needs to be done”, according to the commentary.
The essay is the latest of commentaries by state-run media targeting Tencent and games developers. The People’s Daily last July compared Tencent’s blockbuster game Honour of Kings to “poison”, which wiped US$17.5bil (RM69.69bil) off Hong Kong-listed Tencent’s market value in one day on speculation the government would intervene and curtail the industry. Following the criticism, Tencent CEO Pony Ma Huateng said the company would set a daily time limit of one hour for players under the age of 12, who will not be able to log into the game after 9pm.
Ma found himself again on the defensive during country’s annual political gathering in March after a member of the country’s top political advisory body proposed a classification system for videogames, calling them the new “opium” because an obsession with them was enfeebling the younger generation.
He announced that the company would introduce so-called digital contracts that would allow parents and children to negotiate time limits for playing Honour of Kings. The terms in the contracts can be written to link playing time to tasks such as completing housework and studies, encouraging positive behaviour from children by rewarding them, he said in March.
Online games accounted for 41% of Tencent’s revenues for last year.
Harassment and sexually explicit content is also rife on the Web for China’s youths.
More than 70% of teenagers encountered some form of abuse and harassment online, the study found. Girls are more likely than boys to discuss the harassment with their parents, the study found. A third of the teens have come across sexually explicit content while online.
The study also confirmed the prevalence of social-media use among teens. About 70% of respondents use WeChat or QQ to communicate with classmates, friends and family members every day.
And more than a third of teens will not obey parental restrictions on internet use because “parents also go online and do not set a good example.” — South China Morning Post