Is Tencent to blame for vision problems of Chinese teens?

May 16, 2019 12:36
Online and video game addiction is causing health problems, particularly eyesight-related issues, for China's young people, authorities say. Photo: Reuters

Chinese social media and gaming giant Tencent released its latest financial report on Wednesday, unveiling a better-than-expected net profit growth of 17 percent for the three months to March.

However, it was not all good news, as revenue expansion slowed to the weakest-ever pace and missed analyst expectations.

A major drag was the video games business, which saw its revenue decline compared to the year-earlier period, with both the mobile games and PC games segments suffering.

Well, it's clear that the heightened regulatory scrutiny on the gaming business and tighter rules and curbs on online games imposed last year are continuing to have an effect on the internet giant.

One of the main reasons Beijing has sought to restrict new game titles and impose other controls is the growing worry about vision-related problems among the video screen-addicted youth. 

Given its dominance in online gaming in China, Tencent has not surprisingly been blamed for fueling the video and internet craze in the country, particularly among kids and teens.

Chinese state media has been regularly highlighting eyesight issues among the youth, pointing to online and mobile games as the key problem.

In August last year, Xinhua news agency cited Chinese President Xi Jinping as saying that he "cares for the children's eyes" and that the problem of screen-addiction cannot be taken lightly. 

Against this backdrop, a new report by the China Consumer Association (CCA) will only add to the debate and direct more heat toward firms such as Tencent. 

According to the association, one in eight teenagers in China has the so-called lazy eye, or exotropia, problem.

In a document titled “Teenager Short-sightedness and Online Consumption Experience Report”, CCA said it found that 8.6 percent of 1,760 respondents in a survey had a 200 degree of difference in eyesight.

The difference, which could lead to lazy eyes, or exotropia, where the eyes are deviated outward, is mainly caused by playing online games for too long.

Although 80 percent of families said they have regular eye check-up for their kids, almost one in five respondents admitted that online games were played the previous night.

The impact of youngsters spending too much time on online games has become a social issue, putting Tencent in a spot. The People’s Daily, for instance, had labeled the firm's popular “Honour of Kings” games as “poison” and “drug”.

The company got a reminder yesterday that it cannot wish away the problem.

At its annual meeting in Hong Kong, a mainland shareholder complained that her son was able to log into a Tencent game even after 9 pm.

She spoke for several minutes, offering details on how her son was able to buy gaming accounts from strangers he met through the instant messaging platform QQ.

The lady sat down only when Chairman Pony Ma ordered his staff to take down her information and review the case.

Coming back to the findings of the China Consumer Association, the report also highlighted that some online game operators were gathering more than necessary information from users.

Real-name registrations accounted for less than 40 percent of the online game population, and at least 13 games did not include the parental supervision message.

Well, what can we say, except that Tencent still has a lot more work to do!

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EJ Insight writer