No interest in hobbies, no time for buddies, no appetite for real food - concerned parents may discover that the culprit behind these symptoms in their children is computer games, not drugs//.
Computer games and television can lead to an addiction, with very negative consequences.
'School performance drops, the children stop putting effort into contact with other people, and aren't interested in anything,' says Peter Grosch, general manager at the evangelical addition help association for Mecklenburg, Germany.
Since the children rarely get out and move, they also often suffer from obesity.
It is often difficult to judge when computer game playing becomes a problem.
If over the course of time the children do little else, then it is an addiction, Grosch says.
There are no clear definitions about how many hours of play are dangerous, however.
'It's important that parents notice changes in their children's behaviour,' says psychologist Juergen Detering.
If the child stops doing his chores as usual or starts neglecting friends, red flags should go up.
A recent study by the Charite hospital in Berlin shows just how much computers are present in children's lives.
The poll of sixth graders showed that 80 percent of the students own their computer. Almost 70 percent of the boys and 44 percent of the girls have their own gaming console. Nine percent showed clear indications that they are spending more time at the monitor than is good for them.
These children themselves felt that they were spending too much time sitting in front of the computer, and that this was leading to quarrels with friends and family.
The mere fact that a child enjoys playing on the computer is no cause for alarm.
'The fascination with games is related to our reflexes,' explains Juergen Detering.
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