Korea's Internet Addiction Bootcamps Mistargeted

from the the-symptom-rather-than-the-disease dept

For years, we've pointed out how ridiculous it is for people to be blaming internet addictions for things, when almost every case of "internet addiction" that's demonstrated that the actual problem was something else, and the internet usage was just a way of "escaping" from those other problems. It didn't help that many of the big supporters of "internet addiction" happen to be the people (i.e., doctors) who are most likely to profit from such a thing existing. On top of that, reports have shown that so-called "internet addictions" tend not to be particularly harmful, and it makes you wonder what the big deal is. However, more recently, we're seeing some governments take the "threat" seriously. The NY Times is running an article about a "boot camp" in Korea to help cure kids of internet addiction, incorrectly suggesting it's the first such camp in the world. Earlier this year, we pointed out that China was opening a summer camp for internet addicts, which followed Chinese attempts to cure internet addiction with electric acupuncture, shock therapy and special halfway houses.

Still, as you read the NY Times piece about the Korean boot camp, you see that the folks running the camp are marking the same assumption: that it's the internet or computers to blame, and therefore, the solution must be to remove kids from the internet and computers entirely. This is fighting the symptom, not the disease. There's a reason why people started spending so much time online, and simply taking away access probably won't change that. The one kid that the article discusses in any detail started spending more time online because he wasn't very popular in school. Taking away the internet isn't going to fix that. There's no doubt that some people can spend way too much time at their computers, and it can potentially damage other parts of their lives -- but simply blaming the internet and pulling it away completely seems like a cure that's not likely to help very much. If the real problems that lead the person to spend so much time online aren't dealt with, then they will simply manifest themselves in some other manner soon enough. Calling something an internet addiction seems easy enough (and it's catchy, so it gets headlines), but if people are treating the internet part, rather than the real problems, it's not doing anyone any good.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    dorpus, Nov 19th, 2007 @ 7:59am

    Your assumptions

    1. Why do you assume that doctors "profit" from the existence of internet addiction? Do we see doctors encouraging people to get cancer?

    2. Are you sure that there is no feedback loop involved? If a kid is unpopular in school, therefore he spends all his time playing Doom, does that not detract from his social activities?

     

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  2.  
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    TheDock22, Nov 19th, 2007 @ 8:53am

    Your point?

    For years, we've pointed out how ridiculous it is for people to be blaming internet addictions for things, when almost every case of "internet addiction" that's demonstrated that the actual problem was something else, and the internet usage was just a way of "escaping" from those other problems.

    This is the same for all addictions. Alcoholism is usually caused by depression and anxiety, so people drink. Same thing with gambling and smoking addictions. Heck if you want to go deeper into it, anorexia is caused by depression and deep psychological need to control something in a chaotic life. So, you are saying since all things are caused by other factors that they are not true addictions?

    Yes, I DO think people can become addicted to the internet and fast. There should be some sort of help for people who need it. Spending more that 18 hours a day on the internet and not interacting (face-to-face mind you, not through IM) with people is a problem and should not be brushed off just because you say so.

    Are most people addicted to the Internet? No, of course not, but I am not going to say no one is either.

     

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  3.  
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    Not a Doctor (but I play one on the internet), Nov 19th, 2007 @ 9:05am

    Alcoholism is usually caused by depression and anxiety, so people drink. Same thing with gambling and smoking addictions.

    This is simply not true. Alcoholism is not caused by depression and anxiety. There is a distinction between physical and psychological addiction, and most drugs (including things like alcohol, tobacco, and crystal meth, for example) are physically addictive. Not all people with depression who drink will become alcoholics.

     

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  4.  
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    dazcon5, Nov 19th, 2007 @ 9:05am

    Typical

    Human response to a problem, treat the symptoms ignore the underlying cause(s).

     

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  5.  
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    Max Powers, Nov 19th, 2007 @ 9:08am

    Addiction is Real

    Addiction is real and is a big problem for some. I also think that if you are addicted to something that is legal, why should others suffer because you become so addicted it becomes a problem for you.

     

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  6.  
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    mat552, Nov 19th, 2007 @ 9:21am

    Re: Your assumptions

    1. Doctors in the western world (assuming they do not get sued) make frankly embarasing amounts of money.

    2. It does, but I fail to see a point to the question.

     

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  7.  
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    TheDock22, Nov 19th, 2007 @ 9:27am

    Re:

    Alcoholism is not caused by depression and anxiety.

    http://www.wrongdiagnosis.com/a/alcoholism/underly.htm That defines some underlying causes include depression and schizophrenia, but the important thing is there are underlying causes, sometimes. Beside I never said all people with depression are alcoholics, but I AM saying some people with depression turn to alcohol, as an underlying cause to their addiction.

    Just like not everybody on the Internet is addicted, but the Internet can cause a person to feel lonely, depressed, and have trouble coping with society. On the other hand, people who are already outcast and depressed may turn to the internet to escape. I have known people who haven't slept for days up on the Internet talking to people. That's not healthy and might be a problem.

     

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  8.  
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    vin, Nov 19th, 2007 @ 9:30am

    actually, modern neuroscience sees remarkably little distinction between psychological and physical addiction. It is more than a little scary to see Techdirt, and many of the subsequent comments, espouse their opinions as authoritive, or even relevant, rather than relying on statistical field trials and other actual mechanisms of science that brough the field of medicine out of folklore.

     

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  9.  
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    dorpus, Nov 19th, 2007 @ 9:36am

    Re: Re: Your assumptions

    1. Doctors in the western world (assuming they do not get sued) make frankly embarasing amounts of money.

    If they do make a lot of money, then why would they need to invent dubious new diseases? They would not want to risk their prestige for treating legitimate diseases. Are you sure it is really physicians who invent designer diseases, as opposed to alternative medicine peddlers and New Age opportunists?

    Also, are you sure that physicians do make a lot of money? Could it be that plenty of physicians are dropping out of the profession because there is no money in it? Hospitals are required by law to serve the needs of patients, so they tend to lose lots of money. From a health care organization's perspective, designer diseases for which insurers do not pay are not profitable. The only people who really profit from them are writers of pop psychology books.



    2. It does, but I fail to see a point to the question.

    Then I suggest you take basic courses on psychology, to understand that breaking addiction is all about breaking the cycle of destructive behavior.

     

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  10.  
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    dorpus, Nov 19th, 2007 @ 9:39am

    Re:

    It is more than a little scary to see Techdirt, and many of the subsequent comments, espouse their opinions as authoritive, or even relevant, rather than relying on statistical field trials and other actual mechanisms of science that brough the field of medicine out of folklore.

    It will be funny to watch Techdirt fall flat on its face when they presume to give their "advice" to health care providers.

     

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  11.  
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    Not a Doctor (but I play one on the internet), Nov 19th, 2007 @ 9:57am

    TheDock22, now I see where you're going with this, but having looked at the site you linked to I hardly think you can say that alcohol is usually caused by depression and anxiety. The article says that in some cases alcoholism may be a symptom of underlying conditions, such as depression or schizophrenia.

    Likewise, it's far less likely that the internet causes a person to feel lonely and depressed, or to have trouble coping with society, than it is for a person already suffering from these social issues to turn to the internet to feel empowered. And I think this is Mike's point: The internet itself isn't the problem; it's just a symptom of something else. Treating the symptom won't make the problem go away.

     

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  12.  
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    TheDock22, Nov 19th, 2007 @ 10:05am

    Re:

    I hardly think you can say that alcohol is usually caused by depression and anxiety.

    True, I will agree with that.

    The internet itself isn't the problem; it's just a symptom of something else. Treating the symptom won't make the problem go away.

    But that does not mean we need to ignore this and not have help available for people who need it. We have help for people with all sorts of vices; smoking, drinking, eating, and gambling. Why not just admit the Internet can become just as addicting so we can start offering assistance to people who truly suffer with it?

     

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  13.  
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    jimbob, Nov 19th, 2007 @ 10:07am

    Addiction or not...

    The problem is that a disproportionate amount of importance is placed on medical solutions in the treatment process. Meanwhile the psychological aspects of addiction (causes, stressors, therapy) are more like 'extra credit' exercises.

     

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  14.  
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    Foot in Mouth Disease, Nov 19th, 2007 @ 10:19am

    Re: Typical

    Treating the symptoms is a renewable source of income...
    The problem never goes away, but the cost of the treatment via meds and visits keep going.

     

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  15.  
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    Mike (profile), Nov 19th, 2007 @ 10:50am

    Re: Re:

    But that does not mean we need to ignore this and not have help available for people who need it

    No one said to *ignore* it. All we're saying is stop treating it as if it is the internet that's the problem.

     

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  16.  
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    Alex Hagen, Nov 19th, 2007 @ 11:04am

    Re: Re: Your assumptions

    "1. Doctors in the western world (assuming they do not get sued) make frankly embarasing amounts of money."

    Well, they do get some money, yes. But after 4 years of college, maybe a year of pre-med, 4 years of medical school, 3 to 6 years of residency, and maybe a few years of fellowship, most have paid a large price to get that MD, both in time and money (as much as a half a million dollars in debt). And then add up all the expenses such as insurance and staff, and being squeezed by insurance companies, and I think you would be surprised how tough it is to be a doctor.

     

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  17.  
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    TheDock22, Nov 19th, 2007 @ 11:42am

    Re: Re: Re:

    All we're saying is stop treating it as if it is the internet that's the problem.

    But, as with all addictions, it might very well be the problem causing other negatives affects like depression. In some cases, maybe is not the main problem but there is some underlying problem.

    Just because you treat the underlying problem does not help treat the addiction. We need to have support in place for those people not matter what the case is.

    Is everyone who uses the Internet an addict? No, just like people can drink alcohol and not become an addict. But to say there is NO way the Internet could be addictive to some people is short-sided.

     

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  18.  
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    Danny, Nov 19th, 2007 @ 1:00pm

    Re: Your assumptions

    1. Once a doctor gets over paying off school expenses (and they can VERY high) the do profit quite a bit. It may take the first decade or two to pay off old debts but if they weather the storm they are pulling in quite a bit od money.

    2. Yes playing Doom all the time would detract from his social activities but there was something going on that cause that kid to decide to spend all his time playing Doom to start with. If you take away Doom he would just find some other way to spend his time so he can continue to avoid social activities.

     

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  19.  
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    klein, Nov 19th, 2007 @ 1:23pm

    Your assumptions are obvious

    A big, DUH..., from the peanut gallery. As Captain Obvious so clearly points out, addictions are indeed caused by some other core problem, but that does not mean that the addiction should not be treated either first or at the same time as the core problem is being addressed.

    You do not allow a heroin addict to continue to use throughout their psychological recovery, do you? No, to take them away from their escape of choice and then you start the healing.

     

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  20.  
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    Le Blue Dude, Nov 19th, 2007 @ 2:07pm

    Don't sleep?

    I think I might know someone like that. But I'm in college, and tend to fall off the internet around finals, so I don't know for sure.

    I do know that I tend to be up in the 3AM range, but rarely any later, given that I need to wake up at 9:30AM to avoid missing classes, I get a good 6 hours (college students can function on 4), and more coffee then I really need.

    And being up late on the internet is certainly healthier then being up late in the bars like my compatriots. It's sorta dumb: 19 and over can be in bars, but 'can't drink'.

    Well, I think that internet addiction is healthier then many other things. So wither or not it exists I would prefer money go into chemical addiction issues, and suicide prevention, and mass murder prevention. You know, like the texas clocktower sniper, the virgina tech asshole, or the fool who killed his PHD advisory panel in Iowa

     

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  21.  
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    Derik, Nov 29th, 2007 @ 12:58am

    addiction in korea

    I am teaching adult english conversation in South Korea, and have had classroom discussions on this very topic. Korean society is not an "open" one. It is often not easy to make new friends. The layout of the cities and apartments, I think , does not lend itself to meeting people. Virtually everyone is a stranger, and often your only friends come from school. It's almost like you only get one chance to make friends in life here. You can make friends at work too, and maybe church. There is a lot of alcoholism too, that few people see as a problem. I often see people passed out in the street.

    Starcraft is a national obsession. One of my female students is dating a professional gamer who makes $100,000 / year, and she is very proud of it. She was surprised that I didn't know his name, as he is famous. It is a little sad.

    I lived in africa for a long time, and it was easy to make friends and socialize. It is a better world in many ways. I never met a lonely african, not once.

     

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  22.  
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    amandab, Apr 22nd, 2011 @ 3:08am

    internet addiction

    Interestingly, they don't specifically indict gaming so much as just general computer use, although gaming is mentioned as one of the compulsive computer activities. I also feel somewhat vindicated in that, in the boot camp for teenagers.

     

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