Study finds early access to internet doesn't foster addictive behavior
Problematic parent-child relationships, rather than early exposure to cyberspace, are to blame for children's addiction to the internet and online games, a study released on Friday found.
Research by the China Youth and Children Research Center found that early exposure to online games did not contribute to addiction, according to center director Sun Hongyan, who led the research.
However, the research drew connections between game addicts and their family relationships. Correlation analysis found that online game addicts were more likely to come from negligent or authoritarian families, than from evenhanded or doting ones.
Children with weak family bonds were also likely to spend more money on games, it said.
The findings were based on a 10-month study, which ended in October, of 3,202 pupils in grades 4 to 12. The students came from Beijing and three provincial capitals-Guangzhou, Guangdong province; Hefei, Anhui province; and Chengdu, Sichuan province-and from lessdeveloped Baoji, Shaanxi province, and Liaoyang, Liaoning province.
The findings offered a rare glimpse into Chinese parents' negligence in fostering healthy ties with their children and the academic pressure and monotonous childhood that the young must grapple with nowadays, said Sun Yunxiao, chief researcher at the center and a home schooling specialist at the Chinese Association of Education.
Sun said children have a need for entertainment, and the online gaming experience is often a crucial element that increases their popularity with their peers.
"But in many cases, parents attempt to stifle such needs for fear kids will be distracted from their studies," he said. That would often strain the parent-child relationship and make children feel neglected, which in turn exacerbates the addiction, he said.
Sun said rising academic pressure also played a role in addiction to online games.
"When all that's left for them is studying, children have no choice but to seek comfort through games," he said.
The research-detailed in the Report on the Cognition, Attitude and Behavior of Primary and Middle School Students in Online Games-found a high proportion of children are exposed to online games at an early age.
Nearly 83 percent of top students first used online games in primary school or even earlier, while more than 81 percent of moderate performers did the same.
Fewer children at lower rungs on the academic ladder were exposed so early, but the proportion was still high. More than 73 percent of those students had early exposure to online games.