Wed, Aug 8th 2007 3:01am
Chinese authorities have long viewed "internet addiction" as a real problem for the country's youth, even though some research says that in and of itself, internet addiction isn't really a clinical disorder. The government classifies 13 percent of the country's 20 million internet users under 20 as addicts, and it's tried some radical approaches to "curing" them, such as shock therapy and detox units with electric acupuncture and drugs. It's also tried some other, less invasive, ways to get kids offline, by limiting net cafes and forcing game companies to cut back the points games award after certain periods of time. The problem with all of these methods, though, is that they only seek to stop people from spending a lot of time online; they don't attempt to do anything about the underlying reasons and problems causing them to want to do so. When a halfway house for young internet addicts was opened in China, their first visitor was a 17-year-old with some problems at home, so he talked to a psychologist and the house's staff went to his house to talk with him and his parents. It seemed like the kid was going online as a means of avoiding or dealing with the issues in his home life, and fixing those issues is where the focus should be, not on trying to keep him offline through aversion therapy. It now looks like this message might be starting to sink in, as word comes that authorities in China are opening an experimental summer camp for 40 supposedly net-addicted kids, where they'll be treated for depression and other underlying issues that could be prompting them to spend inordinate amounts of time online. So-called internet addiction, in many cases, isn't an ailment, but just a symptom of some deeper problem. Working to solve that problem is the real solution, rather than the band-aid approach of "curing" the addiction.
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