A charity is warning that addiction to playing computer games is set to become a major issue after its new research showed huge numbers of 10 to 16-year-olds in Norfolk would be lost without them.

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Norcas, which believes gaming could be the next major area where it will have to offer support, commissioned independent research into gaming and addictive behaviours – which revealed that more than a third of people surveyed above the age of 16 think they know of at least one person addicted to gaming, with that number rising to almost 40pc for the under-16s.

Maggie Williams, chief executive of Norcas, said: “It is a generational issue, with almost 100pc of young people engaging in gaming.

“If played responsibly, gaming is a good pastime, but we need people to be aware of the problems that will arise if the gaming takes hold.”

Around a third of adults and more than 40pc of youngsters surveyed by Norcas said they played video games most days – in some cases every day of the week – the key playtime being between 6pm and 9pm, encroaching on the time families spend together.

Mrs Williams said: “Some 86pc of the people we spoke to agreed that gaming can be addictive and revealed lack of exercise and poorer relationships with friends, partners and parents as some of the problems experienced as a result of gaming.”

With the large majority of video games being released in the lead-up to Christmas, Norcas is keen to support responsible gaming and recommends parents recognise the guidelines set by the Pan-European Games Information (PEGI) for age restrictions.

A common misconception is that PEGI ratings are for assessing an individual’s capability to play a game, similar to the rating system of children’s toys.

But gaming certifications are in fact based on content suitability, not capability. For example, an 18 certificate means that it contains content inappropriate for anyone younger. It is also recommended players take regular breaks from any extended length of game play.

The charity is keen to stress there is nothing wrong with playing computer games, unless it begins to have a negative impact on other areas of someone’s life.

For more information on Norcas and its services, please visit www.norcas.org.uk

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