Brief Escape From Internet-Addiction Boot Camp
Fourteen young people at a military-style rehabilitation center for Internet addicts in Jiangsu province united against their supervisor, tied him to a chair and escaped Monday, only to be caught a short time later, the Global Times reported.
Internet addiction centers in modern China often seem like the closest thing left to Mao’s reeducation centers: thousands of young people, often against their wills, returning to life’s basics.
While conditions at camps no doubt vary, they’re known to include rigorous immersion in traditional philosophy, physical exercise and no small dose of discipline — a new world for the legions of gamers who spend days at a time submerged in virtual reality.
In the Jiangsu case, the addicts, as the government refers to them, aged 14 to 22, were reported to police by a local taxi driver after failing to pay their fare.
Zhao Weidong, director of the Huai’an Internet Addiction Treatment Center, confirmed the accuracy of the Global Times article and said that all the escapees had returned the center.
The mutiny came after the teens were apparently unable to bear the center’s “monotonous work and intensive training,” report the Yangtze Evening News.
But the young people received little sympathy from their parents, who agreed they must return to continue their rehabilitation.
There are as many as 24 million adolescents addicted to the Internet, and almost half of them are obsessed with online games, according to data released by the China Youth Association for Network Development early this year.
Chinese parents are said to pay nternet addiction centers on average $3,000 total for the treatments.
“I don’t think there is any problem with the training methods at the center. They are for my child’s own good,” one mother said, according to the Global Times.
Perhaps luckily for the returned addicts, the government last year banned the use of shock therapy in Internet addiction treatment centers.
The term “Internet addiction” has gained credence in China in recent years. But it has also provoked controversy.
A top medical expert described the condition as a mental disorder in 2008, prompting an Internet backlash. In a country where psychological disorders largely remain taboo topics, many parents remain unwilling to describe their child’s problems as psychological.
The Ministry of Health defines “Internet addicts” as those who spend at least six hours each day online and demonstrate symptoms like loss of sleep and anxiety. Between 2005 and 2009, Internet addiction roughly doubled, according to data released in February by the China Youth Association for Network Development
That’s a cause for concern among health officials who worry that excessive computer usage cold increase other health risks like obesity.
In the case of the Jiangsu addicts, about 1,600 people had commented on a QQ discussion of the story by Tuesday afternoon. Some of those to comment blamed the parents while another asked, “If you long to read every day when the books are hidden, does that also mean you should quit?”
– Brian Spegele, with contributions from Gao Sen
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