One in 5 teens risks Internet addiction

Medics running a clinic in Athens for adolescents addicted to the Internet yesterday told Parliament’s research and technology committee that one in five Greek youngsters is at risk of serious dependence that demands clinical treatment. The clinic, which has been based at Athens’s Paidon hospital for the past year, has treated 20 children whose obsession with the Internet has damaged their health and mental well-being, pediatrician Dimitris Kafetzis told the committee. Of these children, most had been spending over five hours a day surfing the Net, growing increasingly distant from family and friends and even neglecting their cleanliness and health, Kafetzis said. Some of them would experience symptoms of dehydration after hours of surfing without drinking any liquid. Others who did not have a computer at home stole money from their parents to fund their addiction at an Internet cafe. According to a study carried out by medics running the Paidon clinic, 20 percent of adolescents are on the brink of a dangerous addiction to the Internet. The study, conducted on a sample of 1,021 15-year-olds, found that 1 percent of them were already addicted and in need of clinical treatment. Medics appealed for state support for the clinic and for an awareness campaign to brief parents on how to prevent their children from getting hooked. They also suggested legislative reforms such as the imposition of a minimum age on patrons at Internet cafes.