News / Health

'Electronic Heroin' Spawns Chinese Internet Addiction Camps

A Chinese teen receives treatment at an Internet addiction camp in a still from the new documentary "Web Junkie."
A Chinese teen receives treatment at an Internet addiction camp in a still from the new documentary "Web Junkie."
Sarah Williams

They call it “electronic heroin,” and China feels it’s the biggest threat to its teenagers.

In 2008, China, which has over 20 million Internet addicts, became one of the first countries to declare the affliction a clinical disorder. Internet addiction has spawned the creation of over 250 camps within China designed to treat addicted youth.

The addiction problem, and China's attempts to treat it, has attracted the attention of Israeli filmmakers Shosh Shlam and Hilla Medalia, who released the documentary Web Junkie earlier this month.

According to the 2008 report that defined the disorder, people who spend more than six hours online doing something other than work or study, and who feel bad when unable to access a computer, have what they call Internet Addiction Disorder.

Gaming appears to be the most addictive Internet behavior, with some gamers donning diapers so as to avoid bathroom breaks.

The trend has Chinese parents worried.

“I think China and especially Chinese parents take education very seriously,” said Eric Harwit, professor of Asian Studies at the University of Hawaii.  “They saw a lot of teenagers, especially young male students, start to lose interest in school and devote much of their time to Internet gaming.”

Harwit said the parents of Internet-addicted youth are desperate to cure their offspring. Some even resort to drugging their kids to take them to the camps.

“They look to [the camps] as a kind of last resort for reforming their children, especially if it’s one child, the only child that they have, and giving them a chance to break their addiction to Internet games and hopefully then return to school and become more academically capable,” he said.

The military-style camps are situated throughout China, and are designed to force the country’s youth away from obsessive Internet surfing and video gaming. Typically, kids can spend three to four months at a camp receiving treatment.

Filmmakers Shlam and Hilla Medalia were granted access to the Daxing Boot Camp in Beijing, the first Internet addiction camp, which opened in 2005.

“Most of the kids were forced to come there, they didn’t know where they were going,” said Hilla Medalia, co-director of Web Junkie. “Some of them were drugged, one of our kids thought he was going skiing and found himself behind bars at the center.”

Once there, the patients are required to participate in rigorous exercises, medication and therapy. Sometimes patients are also placed in isolation for as long as 10 days. The living conditions are Spartan, according to Medalia.

“There are no showers, and they wake up very early in the morning, it’s like a boot camp in many ways and they’re doing military training,” she said. “In the winter it’s extremely cold in Beijing, and in the summer it’s extremely hot.”

But Medalia said camp officials believe the harsh conditions provide a discipline that the patients need. The center encourages parents to stay at the camps, and families often participate in consultations with authorities there. The Daxing treatment center claimed 70 percent success in helping patients overcome Internet addiction. It has since closed, but relocated to another facility not connected to the military.

But some of the disciplinary measures at the camps have become overly harsh, and deaths have been reported. According to a 2012 Xinhua story, “instructors who resort to violence while treating addicts at Internet addiction rehabilitation centers will be disqualified from continuing their job.”

That same report said that in 2010 two camp instructors beat a 15-year-old to death. The two received “up to” 10 years in prison, according to the report.

And the deaths continue.

In June, a 19-year-old girl died after being repeatedly dropped on the ground by instructors at a camp in Henan province. Another girl apparently died after being forced to do extreme exercises on a cold floor for two hours.

The true test of the camps’ success comes when the participants leave the camps and return to their homes or schools where the Internet is always waiting.

“Once they return to society, they’re not supposed to then play games, but they still have to use the Internet,” said Harwit, noting that much academic research is now done online. “How do you say this part of the Internet is good, but this part you should avoid?”

China is not the only country grappling with Internet addiction.

The New York Times reported that “up to 30 percent of South Koreans under 18, or about 2.4 million people, are at risk of Internet addiction.” South Korea also has opened well over 100 rehabilitation centers for those suffering from addiction.

Here's a peak inside a Chinese Internet addiction camp:

Here's the trailer for the movie:

You May Like

Scotland Vote Raises Questions of International Law

Experts say self-determination, as defined and protected by international law, confined narrowly to independence movements in process of de-colonization More

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

Conservationists hail ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015 More

Annual Military Exercise Takes on New Meaning for Ukraine Troops

Troops from 15 nations participating in annual event, 'Rapid Trident' in western Ukraine More

Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Russian Economy Reeling After New Western Sanctionsi
X
September 18, 2014 2:28 AM
A new wave of Western sanctions is hitting Russia’s economy hard. State-owned energy firms continue to bleed profits and Russia’s national currency plunged to a new low this week after the U.S. and the European Union announced new sanctions to punish Russia's aggressive stance in eastern Ukraine. But as Mil Arcega reports, the sanctions could also prove costly for European and American companies.
Video

Video Russian Economy Reeling After New Western Sanctions

A new wave of Western sanctions is hitting Russia’s economy hard. State-owned energy firms continue to bleed profits and Russia’s national currency plunged to a new low this week after the U.S. and the European Union announced new sanctions to punish Russia's aggressive stance in eastern Ukraine. But as Mil Arcega reports, the sanctions could also prove costly for European and American companies.
Video

Video Belgian Researchers Discover Way to Block Cancer Metastasis

Cancer remains one of the deadliest diseases, despite many new methods to combat it. Modern medicine has treatments to prevent the growth of primary tumor cells. But most cancer deaths are caused by metastasis, the stage when primary tumor cells change and move to other parts of the body. A team of Belgian scientists says it has found a way to prevent that process. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Mogadishu's Flood of Foreign Workers Leaves Somalis Out of Work

Unemployment and conflict has forced many young Somalians out of the country in search of a better life. But a newfound stability in the once-lawless nation has created hope — and jobs — which, some say, are too often being filled by foreigners. Abdulaziz Billow reports from Mogadishu.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.
Video

Video NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Future of Ukrainian Former President's Estate Uncertain

More than six months after Ukraine's former President Viktor Yanukovych fled revolution to Russia, authorities have yet to gain control of his palatial estate. Protesters occupy the grounds and opened it to tourists but they are also refusing to turn it over to the state. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Mezhigirya, just north of Kyiv.
Video

Video China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

China says its has sentenced three men to death and one woman to life in prison for a deadly knife attack in March that left more than 30 dead and 140 injured. Beijing says Muslim militants from China's restive western region of Xinjiang carried out the attacks. Now, more than six months after the incident, residents in the city are still coping with the aftermath. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Kunming.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid