China Opens ‘Internet Addiction’ Camp

Joanne Cachapero
SHANGHAI — In an attempt to curb the trend of “Internet addiction” in young people, China will open an experimental summer camp to treat children who abuse online games and Internet pornography.

About 2.6 million, or 13 percent of China's 20 million Internet users who are under 18, are considered to be addicts.

According to the state newspaper China Daily , the camp will host a 10-day program for 40 young people between the ages of 14 to 22, after they have received psychological evaluation. The campers will then be treated for depression, fear, unwillingness to socialize with others, panic and agitation.

The camp is a result of a rise in juvenile crime and several high-profile incidents associated with the Internet. A number of suicides and deaths from exhaustion by online players unable to tear themselves away from marathon game sessions have been reported.

The new program is considered a softer approach than methods used at the Internet Addiction Treatment Center in Beijing where young people are treated with a combination of therapy and military drills.

Other actions by the Chinese government to stem the growth of Internet abuse include a ban on new Internet cafes as well as potential regulation of violent online games. The Shanghai educational commission also will partner with the camp by organizing volunteers to patrol the streets and discourage youths from going to Internet cafes.

The government estimates that there are 113,000 Internet cafes in China.

Xu Leiting, a psychologist at the Internet Addiction Center, said the bootcamp-style training at the center in Beijing helps addicts feel what it’s like to be part of a team, helping their bodies to recover and grow stronger mentally.

But he also cited that Internet abuse might be a result of unrealistic expectations placed on young people in China.

“The main cause of Internet addiction is that parents' expectations for their children are too high," Xu said. “Then [the children] escape to the virtual world to seek achievements, importance and satisfaction, or a sense of belonging.”