YOUTH MATTERS Thomas Cotterill...Drag yourself away from the screen – you might enjoy it

Over the past couple years I’ve noticed a steady decline in my social interaction outside the confines of my bedroom.

If anyone pushed aside the piles of worn clothes and empty crisp packets piled on my bedroom floor, they would be greeted by a dim haze – curtains drawn, light from the television screen throwing the room into stark contrast.

But why, might you ask? The answer is brain-numbingly simple. The rise, power and addictiveness of online gaming.

The Halo, Call of Duty, World of Warcraft – the trinity of gaming behemoths. They have become a digital drug. I find myself playing, bleary-eyed, until the early hours of the morning without a second thought.

Sadly, however, I’m not the only person addicted. I know of 11-year-olds who are just as hooked as myself. This is a serious concern.

I used to be a very outdoor-loving person. I hated staying inside, playing computer games, especially if it was a sunny day.

So this month I have vowed to rekindle my love of the outdoors, yearning for the daily intake of Vitamin D – weather permitting, of course.

A cohort of my gaming buddies and I have been roaming the hills of the South Downs, training for a mock SAS selection course in Wales, this May.

We felt it would be a good bonding experience for the lot of us. It seemed like a happy medium between the combative, virtual world and the ‘real’ one.

How spectacularly wrong we were. Last week we discovered just what we had let ourselves in for.

Two days without sleep; five hours of exercises in the dead of night followed by a gruelling, 20-mile trek over the Brecon Beacons in less than six hours.

And all under the scrupulous gaze of former special forces soldiers. A walk in the proverbial park this most certainly is not.

But we are taking it in our stride. Swimming practice a few times a week with six-mile, weighted treks every other day.

We’ve already been battered by wind and rain, and bogged down in muddy lanes. We’ve ached, spluttered and gasped for breath.

But it has been one of the most fulfilling and amusing months of my life.

So, I’m calling out to all young people. Take a break from your computer screens, pause your games. Do what ever it takes.

And have a look outside for once.

You never know, you might even enjoy it.