Children 'addicted to computer games'

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LARGE numbers of schoolchildren are turning into computer game junkies with many showing signs of genuine addiction.

Researchers found in one British school that 60 per cent of boys and 30 per cent of girls were hooked on cult games such as Super Mario and Street Fighter II.

More than half the worst affected players showed aggressive and anti-social tendencies.

The findings are revealed today on Granada Television's World In Action programme 'Welcome to the Danger Zone'. For the survey, 148 pupils aged between 13 and 15 from a typical school were given a questionnaire based on an American test for studying amusement arcade addiction.

The results showed that 42 per cent of pupils could be properly described as 'addicted'.

Sixteen of the most addicted players and another group of the same size who had little or no interest in the craze were then given a psychological test to assess their behaviour in various situations.

The survey found that 55 per cent of the addicted players gave mainly aggressive responses and displayed anti-social tendencies.

Professor Cary Cooper, from the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology, said: 'Kids who watch video games a lot actually use that behaviour or transpose that behaviour in other social situations - maybe not grossly but they certainly show much more aggressive behaviour than the kids who don't watch video games.

'Until more research is done I don't think the video games companies have any justification in saying it has no impact on kids.'

The two biggest video game producers, Sega and Nintendo, are reported to have sold around 3 million systems each in the United Kingdom.

Speaking on World in Action, Bill White, American head of communications for Nintendo, said: 'We believe all our games meet what we would consider common accepted social norms.'