State media has been saying for months that Chinese kids spend too much time playing mobile games, but now the concern is focused on one group: Children living in rural areas.

In a segment called “The left-behind children indulge in mobile games”, state broadcaster CCTV blasted the influence mobile games have on so-called left-behind children -- those who stay behind in rural areas after their parents moved to bigger cities to find work.

“Online games are gradually devouring the countryside,” the anchor says at the beginning of the 15-minute report. “Some people say that rural kids are being ruined by mobile games.”

The report interviewed a 13-year-old boy who lives in rural Henan, a central Chinese province, with his grandparents. He reportedly dropped from being among the top three students in his grade to the bottom three after getting into games.

The boy said he started playing so he could have more in common with his classmates. When asked how much time he spends playing games each day he answered, “All the time I have.”

More than 18% of left-behind children play online games for 4 to 5 hours every day, the CCTV program says. (Picture: CCTV)

The CCTV report didn’t name any specific games, but the children interviewed were shown playing PUBG Mobile and Honor of Kings, two of the biggest mobile games in China right now -- both distributed by Tencent.

State media has repeatedly commented on the impact online games have on children. In one piece in September, Xinhua said that companies should not be allowed to “hunt for wealth by getting children addicted”, and that it “concerns the nation’s future”.

The Xinhua commentary also suggested that rural kids are more prone to gaming addiction because they lead “simpler social lives”. The latest CCTV program also pointed out that most left-behind children grow up with their grandparents, who are generally less strict with children.

All this comes as China is tightening its grip on online games, citing concerns about minors’ health. In late August, authorities published a notice on measures to combat myopia among minors, which include restricting the number of new online games and limiting the time children spend playing games.