In January this year, the Japanese prefecture of Kagawa began drafting legislation to limit the amount of time that children can spend playing video games. 600 people signed a petition urging Kagawa officials to abandon the proposal, but lawmakers ultimately passed the ordinance. In response, a 17-year-old teenager who is identified only by his first name Wataru, is planning to crowdfund his lawsuit challenging the ordinance.
The ordinance limits playtime to one hour per weekday and 90 minutes on weekends. Younger teens were barred from using their devices after 9 p.m., and older children had a device curfew of 10 p.m.
Notably, the ordinance does not have an enforcement mechanism. In effect, the prefecture relies on parents to enforce the ordinance and limit the playtime of their children.
Wataru says that he’s challenging the law on principle. He argues that rules for device usage should be set by each family individually, not the government.
Wataru says he is not a video game addict but has been kicked off online gaming servers after 10 p.m. He argues that while video game playtime and societal problems might be correlated, there is “no scientific evidence” that excessive playtime is harmful.
“It could be the other way around – truancy can be caused by problems in school, for example, and for some people playing games can be the only relief.”
Tomoshi Sakka, Wataru’s attorney, said in an interview that the ordinance infringes on the constitutionally guaranteed right to self-determination.
Kagawa’s ordinance comes months after China passed a similar regulation. China’s law, passed in late 2019, caps device usage time for children to 90 minutes on weekdays and three hours on weekends. The law also bans children from spending more than $57 per month on in-game items. While China is taking action to enforce the law – disabling internet for children’s devices – it’s unclear if it will be successful. In interviews with The New York Times, experts said children might easily get around these laws by using their parents’ devices.
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