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Nearly 10% of young schoolkids in Yokohama considered internet and gaming addicts: poll

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YOKOHAMA -- Nearly 10% of this eastern Japan city's elementary and junior high school students tend to be addicted to gaming and the internet, a survey by the Yokohama Municipal Board of Education has found.

    As getting addicted to gaming and the internet can have a serious impact on daily life, the board of education's cross-departmental project team will examine preventive measures and countermeasures for these children.

    The survey is aimed at understanding the actual situation in Yokohama in response to the World Health Organization's recognition in 2019 of "gaming disorder" as an addiction. In October 2020, one elementary school and one junior high school were selected from each of the 18 wards in the city, and 13,245 students from the fourth grade of elementary school to the third year of junior high school were surveyed. A total of 4,164 students responded (a 31.4% response rate), and a subcommittee of the city's school health council, consisting of experts, compiled a report.

    According to the report and other sources, students who answered "yes" to five or more of the nine questions were classified as having a "tendency to be dependent on games." A total of 8.9% of the respondents fell into this category. The questions included one asking, "During the past year, was there a time when all you could think about was the time you were playing a game?"

    By gender and grade, a high proportion of elementary school boys were categorized as game-dependent, comprising 23.3% of fourth-grade students and 21.5% of fifth-graders. Compared to boys, the percentage of girls was lower in all grades.

    As for the "tendency to be dependent on the internet," 9.4% of the students answered "yes" to at least five of the eight questions, including "Do you feel that you are absorbed in the internet?" For both males and females, these percentages were highest in the second year of junior high school. The analysis also showed that students with depression symptoms were 4.65 times more likely to be dependent on the internet than those without.

    About 40% of sixth-graders and 80% of third-year junior high school students own a smartphone, which can be a means of playing games or going online. Roughly 30% of all respondents answered that they "don't know about" or "don't use" filtering services, which restrict access to harmful sites.

    According to the findings, the later the schoolchildren go to bed and wake up, and the less they engage in lessons outside of school and club activities, the more likely they are to be addicted to games and the internet. Thus, it is believed that there is a deep connection between these addictions and the deterioration of their lifestyles.

    The city's board of education considers the survey results to be "numbers that cannot be ignored" and will discuss among the project team what measures to take to improve the situation, including consultations within the school.

    (Japanese original by Junya Higuchi, Yokohama Bureau)

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