Photo/IllutrationKagawa Prefecture plans the nation's first ordinance to limit children's smartphone use. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

TAKAMATSU--The Kagawa prefectural assembly moved to tackle addiction to the internet and computer games by preparing an ordinance that would restrict the time minors spend on their smartphones to just one hour a day.

Officials explained that the ordinance was designed as part of an eventual strategy to get the central government to act on this growing social issue by passing legislation.

Prefectural authorities on the island of Shikoku said it would be the first such ordinance in Japan. But it would not carry penalties for those who transgress.

Officials said the ordinance was intended to prevent an excessive dependance on smartphones and computer games that could affect school and social activities.

In explaining the decision, Ichiro Oyama, the prefectural assembly presiding officer who also serves as chairman of a committee assessing the proposal, told reporters, "We felt there would be a need to place a time limitation (in the ordinance) to prepare for the future possibility of asking the central government to pass a law on this issue."

He added that local authorities set the 1-hour time limit based on a prefectural study on the learning environment of children.

In the course of fine-tuning the proposed ordinance, the prefectural assembly will allow local residents to submit their views on the issue. Plans call for submitting an ordinance draft around February for a vote by the assembly and enacting the ordinance from April when the new school year begins.

The preliminary draft was presented on Jan. 10 to a committee considering how to deal with excessive dependence on the internet and video games. This is defined as when children start ignoring their school work or social activities to concentrate on dabbling on the internet or playing video games.

The proposal calls on guardians to limit use of smartphones, computers and video games to 60 minutes a day on weekdays for dependents under 18. Use of the devices would be expanded to 90 minutes on weekends and national holidays. Guardians would also be asked to ensure that children in junior high school and younger stop using the devices by 9 p.m., while all other children would be obliged to pack things in by 10 p.m.