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Many Children Developing Sweet Tooth for Net

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Less than 10 percent of elementary students under the age of nine are addicted to the Internet, suggests a recent survey.

But approximately 80 percent of the students polled by the China Youth Association for Network Development (CYAND) began to use the Internet before they turned nine, browsing for "cartoons, music, and games." Slightly more than 7 percent suffer from Net addiction.

The survey, conducted among 1,200 elementary students and 1,200 parents in Beijing, Shanghai and Wuhan, is part of CYAND's research about the spike in the number of Internet users among children as parents are becoming more and more concerned about Internet addiction among youths.

China has the world's largest population of net users at 338 million.

Related readings: Teenager beaten in Internet boot camp Major Internet pornography syndicate dismantled Parents of teen who died at Internet camp want answers Teenager dies in Internet rehab There are approximately 3 million Internet users nationwide who are no more than 10 years old, according to CYAND.

"We suggest that a youth protection law should be made to stipulate more regulations about preventing Internet addiction," said Qi Xianghong, director of CYAND.

On August 2, a 15-year-old boy was beaten to death by counselors at Qihang Salvation Training Camp, an Internet rehabilitation camp in Nanning, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region.

Thirteen workers at the camp, including its president, have been detained.

The survey defined Internet addiction through four stages of potentially harmful effects. First, it hampers children's study and communication with others; second, youth addicts always want access to the Internet; third, every time the Internet is not accessible, addicts feel upset, depressed or lost; fourth, they feel happier or more satisfied in the Internet realm than the real world.

Over 75 percent of parents polled feel "worried when their child is using the Internet and they feel that their children are going to be addicted," according to the poll.

About 40 percent of parents think "the Internet is more harmful than beneficial for elementary school students," while another 33.1 percent cannot decide whether the Internet does more harm than good. About 28 percent said they doubt whether "the Internet has more harmful effects than benefits."

Li Tian, of Beijing and a father of a 10-year-old boy, agrees that the Internet is more harmful than beneficial for children.

His son, Li Zihao, learned to use the Internet at about 7 and his father said he usually is allowed to spend two or three hours every week on the Internet to play a game called Mole Garden, which is very popular among Chinese kids.

"We tell him he can play no more than an hour each time," Li said. "I think children need discipline and instruction from parents. If you don't control your children, they cannot control themselves."

"But it seems that the Internet is spreading so fast in China, and it is difficult to get children away from it as much as parents want them to," Li said.

Li is one of many parents who are limiting Internet-use for their children.

More than half of the parents in the poll agree that children need instructions and help from parents when using the Internet, while about 30 percent of parents are "always supervising" or "forbidding use of the Internet."

The survey also shows that if a child is doing well in their studies, the child's parents are more likely to give more leeway in using the Internet.

"His time is so tight, there's so much to study, I don't think there is time for games," said a lady surnamed Cai, a mother of a 5th grade student. "Besides, I think diligence is always a virtue, while games are not beneficial."

Cai said mostly she only allows her son to use the Internet when he needs materials for study.

"Sometimes I let him play half an hour of a game. I understand that kids always want to play," she said.

"Some parents permit use of the Internet as a reward for progress in class," said Wang Qian, an elementary school teacher from Jinan.

(China Daily August 20, 2009)

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