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930,000 Japanese teens addicted to Internet: survey

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Japanese teens are increasingly becoming addicted to the internet, with an estimated 930,000 junior high and high school students overusing its services, a health ministry team said Friday.

The figure doubled from the previous survey released in 2013 and showed more female students were dependent than males. The team said the prevalence of smartphone games and social networking services is partly to blame for the surging trend.

Addiction to the internet causes problems in daily lives due to heavy use of the internet. Those dependent are feared to become reclusive or be violent toward family members and possibly suffer brain problems and illnesses such as depression.

The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry survey conducted between December and February targeted students at 103 junior high and high schools in Japan, and some 64,000 students responded.

It showed 10.6 percent of junior high school boys and 14.3 percent of junior high school girls were using the internet in a morbid manner. Among high school students, 13.2 percent of boys and 18.9 percent of girls did so.

Students were deemed to fall into that category if their situation applies to five or more conditions out of eight depicting traits of those addicted, such as "You go into a sulk if you are going to stop using the internet."

Based on the latest study, the number of those addicted is estimated to be at least 930,000 nationwide, up from 510,000 in the 2013 survey.

Overplaying of online games has become a global issue, prompting the World Health Organization to add gaming disorder to its list of medical health conditions in June.

Last year, a 22-year-old man in China's Zhejiang Province was reportedly rushed to hospital after playing online games for four days without eating or drinking and suffering kidney malfunction.

The Chinese government said Thursday it plans to control total volume of online games to prevent young people from becoming near-sighted.

In South Korea, a man in his 20s who frequented an internet cafe starved his 2-year-old son left behind at home in 2014, while another man in his 20s died after playing games online for 86 hours virtually without sleep in 2002.

Its government is also taking steps to fight the problem by introducing treatment programs.

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