Japanese Court OKs Local Ordinance to Limit Daily Video Game Time, Says Law Does Not Violate Constitution

Japanese Court OKs Local Ordinance to Limit Daily Video Game Time, Says Law Does Not Violate Constitution
The handset of a PlayStation 4 video game console at the Tokyo Game Show on Sept. 20, 2018. (Tomohiro Ohsumi/Getty Images)
Aldgra Fredly

A Japanese court on Tuesday dismissed a lawsuit filed by a 19-year-old man and his mother who argued that a local ordinance limiting video game playing time was unconstitutional.

The ordinance, first introduced in the Kagawa Prefecture in April 2020, suggests that parents limit video gaming time for children under 18 to 60 minutes per school day and 90 minutes on weekends.

Parents are advised to stop their children’s online gaming sessions by 9 p.m. for those under 15 and 10 p.m. for older children. The ordinance contains no penalties, but residents are expected to follow as a matter of responsibility.

The plaintiff was a high school student in the Takamatsu district when he and his mother sued the prefectural government for 1.6 million yen ($11,537) in September 2020, local media Kyodo News reported.

They argued the ordinance violated Article 13 of Japan’s constitution, which guarantees the right to liberty, and that there is no scientific rationale for the ordinance’s stated purpose of preventing gaming addiction.

The Takamatsu district court rejected their claims and ruled that the ordinance was constitutional because it merely proposes guidelines and has no penalties, hence not restricting the rights of residents.

The court also cited the World Health Organization’s (WHO) classification of “gaming disorder” as a behavioral addiction. Gaming disorder was included in the 11th revision of the WHO’s International Classification of Diseases.
According to the WHO, the behavior pattern must be severe enough to cause significant impairment in personal, family, social, educational, and other functioning and must have been evident for at least a year for someone to be diagnosed with gaming disorder.

China Limits Video Game Time

China also limits video gaming time for youngsters under 18 to one hour a day—8 to 9 p.m.—on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. They can also play for an hour, at the same time, on public holidays.

The measures were imposed in August 2021. Gaming companies are barred from providing services to minors in any form outside the stipulated hours and must ensure they have real-name verification systems in place.

Under previous rules adopted in 2019, China had limited the length of time minors under 18 could play video games to 1.5 each day and three hours on holidays.

Reuters contributed to this report.