Teenagers are getting addicted to the Internet and taking to crime at a younger age than in any other country, the nation's biggest research project on the topic revealed yesterday.
Teen addicts in China are transfixed by online games while their counterparts in the West have a wide range of interests from virtual relationships to pornographic videos, said researchers at the Institute of Psychology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.
The survey is part of the Rainbow Project launched by the Beijing municipal committee of the Communist Youth League of China in 2005.
And surprisingly, the "good kids" who impress their parents and teachers with high scores are most vulnerable to the online frenzy.
"Internet addicts in China are as many as 10 years younger than those in the West. They are more susceptible," said Gao Wenbin, a researcher at the institute. Most addicts are between 15 and 20 years while their counterparts in the West are usually aged 20-30.
In major cities like Beijing, as many as 15 percent of those in the vulnerable age group need urgent help as their preoccupation with the virtual world harms their real-world life. "It (the percentage) is astounding It can be the highest in this world," said the researcher.
China has the world's largest population of Internet users after the US 123 million and 15 percent of the netizens are under 18.
Of the 18.3 million teen users, more than 2 million are addicts, according to a report published by the Central Committee of the Communist Youth League of China last November.
Because the young addicts mostly boys use Internet cafes, and many of these cafes turn out to be illegal, many cases of theft, robbery and even killings have taken place as a result, said Gao.
"Boys, like young male animals, need to play games, but sadly, games on campus usually suit girls better in our country," he said. "They will naturally turn to the virtual world if they cannot find an outlet for their energy either at home or school."
As for the "good kids," they will be frustrated when they grow up and realize that it is not enough to have good scores.
They also need girlfriends and money and have to be athletic. "They have so many problems and no way to solve them, so they get online," he said.
(China Daily January 17, 2007)