China plagued with 2 million teen Internet addicts

BEIJING (Reuters Life!) - Chinese teenagers are getting addicted to the Internet and taking to crime at a younger age than in any other country, state media reported on Wednesday.

Of China’s 18.3 million teen Internet users, more than 2 million were addicts, with “good kids who impress their parents and teachers” the most vulnerable to the affliction, the China Daily said, citing a study by the Communist Youth League.

“Internet addicts in China are as many as 10 years younger than those in the West. They are more susceptible,” the daily quoted Gao Wenbin, a psychology researcher at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, a top government think tank, as saying.

Most Internet addicts were male and between 15 and 20 years old, Gao said, with as many as 15 percent of those in large cities needing “urgent help.”

Gao blamed a lack of diversions at schools, forcing addicts into often illegal Internet cafes and exposing them to crime and violence.

“They will naturally turn to the virtual world if they cannot find an outlet for their energy either at home or school,” he said.

Last week, another state newspaper said there was a 68-percent rise in juvenile crime in China over five years and that figure was going to rise.

“Earlier development and the culture of violence are to blame for an increase in harmful actions among adolescents under 14,” the Beijing Morning Post said.

Pirated DVDs, including violent and adult material, are available on every street corner and computer and online gaming has exploded in China in recent years.

Amid growing concern that more and more young people are becoming hooked, China has issued a raft of regulations aimed at curbing excessive game-playing at Internet cafes and heavily fining owners that admit minors.