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Parents now have something else to worry about: A new study has found that arcade video games, found in many shopping malls, are addictive to a small percentage of teenagers, who steal and cut school to keep playing them.

The British researchers who conducted the study, published in the journal Addictive Behaviors, say the behavior exhibited by 6 percent of the teenagers who regularly play these games closely resembles compulsive gambling. The addicted teens in this study, for example, became more and more preoccupied with playing the games, lied to family or friends to conceal the extent of their involvement, misused school lunch money or stole to finance their habit, and did more poorly in school.They also spent a lot of time shooting bad guys by video. The 6 percent who tested as addicted played 3 to 7 days week, from two to three hours each time they visited the arcade. The findings come from a survey of 460 students, age 11 to 16, at a secondary school in the southwest of England.

"These slot video games are a side door to gambling," Thomas Cummings, executive director of the Massachusetts Council on Compulsive Gambling, said in an interview. He says there are similarities between gambling and arcade video games, in large part because money is involved, and incentives to keep playing, such as free gifts and games.

- Alison Bass