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Internet Addiction Plaguing Chinese Youth

At least 33 million are hooked on Web gaming and other entertainment, finds a Chinese researcher.

So-called "Net addiction" is plaguing more and more young Chinese, according to a new study by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

At least 33 million Internet users are classified as addicted, which means they spend more than 90 minutes a day online outside of work or school. Of the 236 million Netizens in China who are under 29 years old, almost 14% are hooked on the Web, the report said.

The academy's finding comes at an interesting time in the development of China's Internet. On the one hand, state-run businesses are investing tens of billions on expanding and upgrading access to make the Net easier and faster to use, but on the other hand China's autocratic government is increasingly wary of the unbridled nature of the web -- evidenced in its high-profile battle with Google over censorship.

The report particularly focused on the increasing problems associated with Internet gaming. Nearly 50% of young Chinese hop on the Net just to play games. And they tend to favor massive multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPG), which have made companies like Tencent and Shanda some of the most popular on Wall Street because of the industry's fast growth.

Nearly 70% of young Internet addicts are hooked on such games, said the report, which cites a survey by China Internet Network Information Center of almost 10,000 users aged 6 to 29.

"The affliction of modern technology, if not a disorder, has to be addressed to help promote healthy and scientific Internet usage among young people," said Shen Jie, a professor at the academy and main researcher for the report.

China's Internet population, already the world's largest, soared nearly 30% in 2009 to 384 million, of which one in three was younger than 19, according to CINIC. Earlier this year, another survey by the China Youth Association for Network Development said young Internet addicts had skyrocketed to 24 million by 2009, almost double that of 2005.

"The survey results highlight the worrying situation of the ever-growing number of young Internet addicts," Hao Xianghong, secretary-general of CYAND said in a statement.

The problem seems to have taken root in other Asian countries as well. In South Korea, one of the most wired countries in the world, three out of 10 adults and 26% of teens are addicted gamers, according to the Korea Computer Life Institute.

"Children start to play Internet games when they become fourth- or fifth-graders," Eo Gee-jun, president of the group, told the Korea Times newspaper. "They tend to be more attached to them as they grow up."

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