4% of teenagers at risk of Internet addiction: Study

Four in every 100 Korean teenagers are at risk of Internet addiction, a government study showed Wednesday.

The survey of 1.74 million youths, conducted by the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family in cooperation with the Education Ministry, found that 3.9 per cent of the participants, or 68,044, were categorised as high-risk Internet users; or at-risk users, in other words, potential addicts.

Although lower than the previous year's 4.94 percent, the rate is still high, ministry official Kim Sung-byuk said.

"The ratio of students at risk of addiction has been on the decline in recent years, helped by increased public awareness, governmental measures and campaigns," he said.

"Still, our teens are too hooked on the internet."

The study was conducted between April and March on fourth graders in elementary schools, first graders in middle schools and first year students in high schools nationwide.

Some 0.9 per cent of participants, or 16,714, belong to the high-risk group. They feel the need to be online and experience withdrawal symptoms when offline for significant periods of time, such as depression.

For elementary school fourth-graders in this group, the average daily internet use exceeds 3 hours.

The at-risk group adds up to 2.6 per cent of students. This group feels insecure when offline for long periods of time.

Average Internet use for elementary fourth-graders in this group is two hours a day.

Elementary school fourth graders showed the highest percentage of high-risk users at 0.9 per cent.

The figures for those in the first year of middle school and high-school stood at 0.9 percent and 0.6 per cent, respectively.

Teen Internet or online gaming addiction has been a social problem in Korea, one of the world's most wired countries.

Last November the government started an online gaming curfew, blocking those under age 16 from logging onto online game sites from midnight to 6am.