Sunday, July 31, 2011

Internet rehab break-out

Chinese Youths Escape From Internet Addicts' Camp

AOL News

TAIPEI, Taiwan (June 8) -- A group of youngsters hog-tied their counselor and escaped from an Internet addicts' rehab camp in China earlier this month, according to a report in the Yangtze Evening News.

But their taste of freedom lasted only a few hours, until police picked them up after getting a tip-off call from a cabdriver the penniless youths had stiffed.

The story shines a spotlight on the growing "Internet addiction" problem among increasingly wired Chinese young people, and on the many "jie-wang" (quit the Internet) camps that have sprung up in recent years to treat the 21st-century malady.

An Internet addict receives electric shock treatment at the Beijing Military Region Central Hospital in Beijing on July 6, 2005.
Cancan Chu, Getty Images

An Internet addict receives an electric shock treatment at Beijing Military Region Central Hospital in 2005. Some of China's Internet addiction programs are run in hospitals; others are fly-by-night operations.

Some of the rehab centers are run out of hospitals with professional staff and support. But many others are fly-by-night operations looking to cash in and employing questionable means, such as administering electric shocks to Web-addled youth.

The Yangtze Evening News, whose story Monday was first highlighted by the website, said that China's health ministry banned such extreme shock treatments last year.

The jail-break from the Jiangsu Province rehab camp was planned well in advance, the paper said. Five or six youth practiced for days with a rope. Then, on the night of June 3, they ambushed their counselor, covering him in a blanket and then tying him up. When the counselor screamed, the alarmed youth, fearful of being caught, hit him while simultaneously apologizing to him, the paper reported.

A total of 14 youths, ages 15 to 22, took advantage of the counselor's quandary to make a run for it. Some took cabs to nearby Xuyi County, home of the teens' ringleader. But their well-executed plan fell apart at that point as they had no money to pay the cabdriver.

Eight of the youths were picked up by police wandering the streets, still clad in the military-style camouflage fatigues issued by the camp, the report said. All were returned to the camp, with some facing tearful and ashamed parents. The Yangtze Evening News ran a photo of one youth, his head hung low, facing his crying mother, with the caption, "How am I going to save you, my son?"

Parents had paid 18,000 renminbi (about $2,600) per teen for a six-month stint at the rehab camp. As at many such camps, military-style discipline was employed to try to set kids straight and help them kick their online habits. The escapees had only been at the camp two or three months, but cited bad food, mean counselors and crushing boredom as motivations for their bust-out.

China had 384 million Internet users by the end of last year, with the Internet reaching about 29 percent of the population, according to a white paper released by the Chinese government today.

Psychiatrists differ on whether Internet addiction should be accepted into the medical canon. In a 2009 interview, Dr. Tao Ran, a pioneer in the field in China, said he defined Internet addiction as spending more than six hours per day for three months or more on non work- or study-related Internet use.

He estimated that 4 percent to 6 percent of Chinese Internet users qualified as addicts by that definition. Most of those are youths hooked on shoot-em-up games like Counterstrike (or "Audition" in the case of many girls), or online novels popular in China.

Tao defended rehab camps like the one he runs outside Beijing, saying, "they can help them [teens] build their confidence, become more social, learn to be more respectful and develop group spirit."

Tao said teen Internet addiction was usually just a symptom of underlying problems such as bad parenting, dysfunctional families or personality disorders. For that reason, he insists on treating teens and their parents jointly at his clinic, and administers medication to about 60 percent of his patients.

His patients are mostly Chinese but have also included Internet addicts from the U.S., Japan and Germany. He said his Chinese patients typically withdraw from school and social life, sleep during the daytime and go online at night. "They say they live on American time," Tao said.

Original site

No comments: