An 11-year-old girl from Nanjing gave strangers virtual red envelopes (hongbao) worth over a thousand dollars, according to a report in Global Times.
The child’s mother only found out when she went to withdraw cash and found her account had been emptied. The girl had set up a group using QQ, the online messaging app, and given out nine hongbao, each containing RMB 1,000. She had also spent RMB 2,000 on a QQ game.
QQ is owned by Tencent, which also developed WeChat. It’s an older technology, but is still hugely popular, particularly with younger users, as it does not require a mobile phone number to register.
The mother appealed to the recipients to return the money, but received an unsympathetic response. Tencent are now considering her request for a refund. There is hope; last year Tencent returned most of the RMB 30,000 an 11-year-old boy spent on in-app purchases in the game King of Glory. The money was his father’s entire life savings, which he had obtained simply by linking his father’s bank card to his game account.
Poignantly, the mother said “I am too busy and can barely spend time with her. Maybe that’s the reason she did it.” It’s not hard to see that giving so much money away to strangers might be a cry for attention from an unhappy child. The government is clamping down on children’s access to games as part of its bid to reduce myopia in China’s youth. However the real problem may not lie with the technology itself, but with a culture of long hours at work which means many parents spend little time with their children.