College freshmen tend to lack self control when it comes to a variety of impulses: drinking themselves sick, skipping class, eating entire bags of Doritos for dinner, etc. Some of them, after having left the comforts of home and the nagging voice of Mom telling them to go to bed, also go crazy playing EverQuest all night, every night. Those kids usually learn their lessons one way or the other, sometimes by flunking a few classes. But if you're a university student in China, you may not even get the opportunity to fall into the trap of late-night gaming sessions… at least not until your sophomore year.
While American universities are pushing freshmen to bring computers in order to stay connected to university and home life, universities in China are discouraging it. Three popular universities in the country—Zhejiang University, Nanjing University, and Shanghai Jiaotong University—have all instituted new rules this term that forbid freshmen from bringing computers with them. Others have been using the rule for years.
University officials believe the policy will help prevent freshmen from falling into the temptations of online gaming—an extremely popular pastime not only in China, but many Asian countries. A member of the Education Administration Office at the Huazhong University of Science and Technology told the Beijing News that freshmen were unable to control themselves when adjusting to university life, which is why the university instituted the rule in 2000. Wang Xuemei, the director of the Students' Affairs Division of the Wuhan Institute of Technology, also told the paper that freshmen there haven't been allowed to bring computers for five years now, and sophomores are only allowed to bring one after passing an English test. This rule is enforced across the board, regardless of whether the students are majoring in something computer- or technology-related.
But not everyone agrees that banning computers for freshmen is the right answer to the problem. There are always ways to get a gaming or Internet fix, so a one-year ban on computers won't do much to help students who are hooked on the 'Net and gaming. Internet addiction expert Tao Hongkai believes that educators would do a much better job of helping students get over their vices than simply putting off the inevitable.
And inevitable it is. According to research cited by the paper, many students still play games at university computing centers or cybercafés, and most of those students are freshmen. An extremely small poll of 15 university students showed that almost all of them brought computers their second year—and immediately began to play computer games all day. 12 students admitted to having failed exams because of their gaming habits, and nine said that they brought the computers only to play games. While we'd like to see more robust data on this phenomenon with a larger sample size, the results don't exactly come as a shock: kids will be kids, after all, and they will find ways around the (somewhat flimsy) rules however they can.
Of course, this isn't the first time entities within China have targeted online gaming with the hope of producing more well-rounded young'uns. The Chinese government issued a directive in April that hoped to curb gaming by children by limiting the amount of time kids could play online per day. Young people who exceed three hours of gaming in a single day were supposed to have half of their earned credits in a game taken away, with those who play more than five hours a day losing all of them. The plan was put in place on July 15, although it's still unclear whether officials have come up with a consistent way to enforce the rule.