Internet addiction is ‘a grave social problem’ in China

Just when you thought that it was safe to go back into the Gulag… The United States catches a lot of criticism of it’s human rights policies. Some of it may be justified, but much of it isn’t, especially when compared to how the rest of the world treats its citizens on a daily basis…

This article by Washington Post reporter Ariana Eunjung Cha shows how China deals with some of the most horrible scofflaws known to man: The “Internet Addict”.

February 22, 2007

DAXING, CHINA – Sun Jiting spends his days locked behind metal bars in this military-run installation, put there by his parents. The 17-year-old high school student is not allowed to communicate with friends back home, and his only companions are psychologists, nurses and other patients. Each morning at 6:30, he is jolted awake by a soldier in fatigues shouting, “This is for your own good!”

Sun’s offense: Internet addiction.

Alarmed by a survey that found that nearly 14 percent of teens in China are vulnerable to becoming addicted to the Internet, the Chinese government has launched a nationwide campaign to stamp out what the Communist Youth League calls “a grave social problem” that threatens the nation.

The Chinese government in recent months has joined South Korea, Thailand and Vietnam in taking measures to try to limit the time teens spend online. It has passed regulations banning youths from Internet cafes and has implemented control programs that kick teens off networked games after five hours.

But no country has gone quite as far as China in embracing the theory that heavy Internet use should be defined as a mental disorder and mounting a public crusade against Internet addiction.

To skeptics, the campaign dovetails a bit too nicely with China’s broader effort to control what its citizens can see on the Internet. The Communist government runs an extensive program that limits Web access, censors sites and seeks to control online political dissent.

In the Internet-addiction campaign, the government is helping to fund eight inpatient rehabilitation clinics across the country.

The clinic in Daxing, a suburb of Beijing, is the oldest and largest, with 60 patients on a normal day and as many as 280 during peak periods. Few of the patients, who range in age from 12 to 24, are there willingly. Most have been forced to come by their parents, who are paying upward of $1,300 a month — about 10 times the average salary in China — for the treatment.

Led by Tao Ran, a military researcher who built his career by treating heroin addicts, the clinic uses a tough-love approach that includes counseling, military discipline, drugs, hypnosis and mild electric shocks.

Located on an army training base, the Internet-addiction clinic is distinct from the other buildings because of the metal grates and padlocks on every door and the bars on every window.

On the first level are 10 locked treatment rooms geared toward treating teen patients suffering from disturbed sleep, lack of motivation, aggression, depression and other problems. Unlike the rest of the building, which is painted in blues and grays and kept cold to keep the teens alert, these rooms are sunny and warm.

Sun, the 17-year-old, who is from the city of Cangzhou, checked into the clinic about a month ago. He said he was sometimes online playing games for 15 hours nonstop. “My life was not routine — day and night, I was messed up,” he said. Since he’s been there, Sun said, he’s decided to finish high school, attend college and then work at a private company. With the help of a counselor, he’s mapped out a life plan from now until he’s 84.

No one is comfortable talking about the third floor of the clinic, where serious cases — usually two or three at a time — are housed. Most have been addicted to the Internet for five or more years, Tao said, are severely depressed and refuse counseling. These teens are under 24-hour supervision.

Guo Tiejun, a school headmaster turned psychologist who runs an Internet-addiction research center in Shanghai, said the military-run clinic goes too far in treating Internet addicts like alcohol and drug addicts.

He has treated several former patients of the Daxing clinic and advocates a softer approach. Guo said he believes that the root of the problem is loneliness and that the most effective treatment is to treat the teens “like friends.”Our conclusion is that kids who get addicted in society have some kind of disability or weakness. They can’t make friends, can’t fulfill their desire of social communication, so they go online,” he said.

Guo is especially critical of the use of medications — which include antidepressants and a variety of other pills and intravenous drips — for Internet addiction because, he said, that approach treats symptoms, not causes.

Tao and his team of 15 doctors and nurses defended their treatment methods. He said that while some clinics depend wholly on medications, only one out of five patients at the Daxing clinic receive prescription drugs. Tao did agree with Guo that Internet addiction is usually an expression of deeper psychological problems.

Sun looks forward to returning to school and getting on with his life. The first task on his agenda when he gets home: Get online. He needs to tell his worried Internet friends where he was these past few weeks.

Copyright 2007 Star Tribune. All rights reserved.


Electric Shocks? WTF?

But on the bright side, maybe they’ve finally figured out how to deal with all of that ‘MySpace’ crap. I mean really, does ‘HotStephanie6969’ really want to be my friend?

I doubt it…


~ by thehotblog on February 28, 2007.

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