National / Crime & Legal

Teen to sue Kagawa Prefecture over ordinance that limits gaming time

AFP-JIJI

A teenager standing up for his right to play hours of video games has launched a crowdfunding campaign for a lawsuit to challenge guidelines in Shikoku that limit children’s gaming time.

The 17-year-old, who asked to be identified only by his first name Wataru, has enlisted the support of his mother and a lawyer in his bid to challenge the first-of-its-kind ordinance, which was issued by Kagawa Prefecture.

The ordinance calls for children to be limited to an hour a day of gaming during the week, and 90 minutes during school holidays. It also suggests that children 12 to 15 not be allowed to use smartphones later than 9 p.m., with the deadline pushed back to 10 p.m. for those between 15 and 18.

But while the rules are just guidelines with no enforcement mechanism, Wataru said he was inspired to challenge them on principle.

“How long children are allowed to play games or use a smartphone should be rules set by each family, not by the government,” he said.

“I thought it is wrong that an administrative body intervenes in family life,” he said.

Wataru insists his own gaming habits weren’t particularly obsessive, but said he had experienced being kicked off a computer server when he tried to access it after 10 p.m. because of the rules.

The time limits in the guidelines “have no scientific evidence,” he argues.

“They’re based on the premise that gaming is the cause of things like truancy and addiction to games,” he said.

“But 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.”

Wataru isn’t alone in his opposition to the guidelines: Nearly 600 people signed a petition against the rules that was submitted in January while they were being considered by lawmakers.

But the measure also attracted significant public support and passed the Kagawa Prefectural Assembly in March, becoming the nation’s first guidelines on child access to gaming and smartphones.

Wataru’s lawyer Tomoshi Sakka said he believes the ordinance violates the Constitution’s commitment to ensuring the right of self-determination.

But for the teen, the guidelines are just one more attempt to restrict the right of kids to have fun.

“There are so many playgrounds that ban playing football and even ban the use of any kind of ball,” he said.

“How can us kids be allowed to just have some fun?”

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