Over 2.7m Thai children addicted to computer

THAILAND - More than 2.7 million children in the country are addicted to computer games, according to the latest estimate based on a nationwide survey.

Conducted during the second quarter of this year, the survey covered 20,000 children and suggests that as many as 15 per cent of children are addicted to gaming. There are about 18 million children in Thailand's population according to official statistics.

"Children with serious gaming addictions are aggressive and show a tendency towards violence. Some have even been found to physically hurt their parents, or attempt suicide when barred from playing games," Assoc Prof Chanvit Pornnoppadol said yesterday at an event to launch the "Thai Children and IT" project.

Chanvit, who works for the Department of Psychiatry, the Faculty of Medicine at Siriraj Hospital, said that some gaming addicts also skipped classes and stayed awake late into the night to play games.

"They refuse to join school activities, become emotionally unstable, and show poorer academic performance," he said.

Children who developed serious forms of gaming addiction needed to undergo treatment, said Chanvit, adding that between 30 and 40 children seek treatment each year.

"However, I believe the number of children needing treatment is much higher than this," he said.

Speaking at the same event, Sura Techatat, adviser to the culture minister, acknowledged that IT technology also had its negative side.

"We have to watch out for problems that may occur with our children and try to find solutions," he said.

The Culture Ministry's permanent secretary Preecha Gunteeya said the ministry was seeking to provide children with safer access to computer technology.

"We are also trying to boost their access to safe and constructive media sources," he said.