An old military base in the Daxing suburb of Beijing has been repurposed for battle against internet addiction among China’s 12 to 24-year-olds. According to a new report, 14 percent of Chinese teens are vulnerable to internet addiction, and the Communist Youth League says that internet addiction is “a grave social problem” that threatens the nation. Additionally, the Chinese media has recently drawn attention to social problems related to internet addiction including a murder over the theft of virtual property and a string of suicides.
While some psychologists in the United States would like to classify internet addiction as a psychological disorder and apply medication and psychological counseling, it seems that the Chinese have their own solution. Accordingly, at Daxing, “patients” are “treated” with electric shocks, exposure to extreme temperatures, hypnosis, drugs, military discipline and even counseling. While some patients do enter the clinic voluntarily the majority are forcibly admitted by parents, teachers, and police, while treatment tends to run upwards of US$1,300. The Chinese government reportedly funds eight such clinics, and the Daxing clinic is run by military researcher, Tao Ran, who gained fame by applying such methods to heroine addicts.
The Star Tribune describes life at the clinic:
Sun Jiting spends his days locked behind metal bars in this military-run installation, put there by his parents. The 17-year-old high school student is not allowed to communicate with friends back home, and his only companions are psychologists, nurses and other patients. Each morning at 6:30, he is jolted awake by a soldier in fatigues shouting, “This is for your own good!”
Sun…checked into the clinic about a month ago. He said he was sometimes online playing games for 15 hours nonstop. “My life was not routine — day and night, I was messed up,” he said. Since he’s been there, Sun said, he’s decided to finish high school, attend college and then work at a private company. With the help of a counselor, he’s mapped out a life plan from now until he’s 84.
No one is comfortable talking about the third floor of the clinic, where serious cases — usually two or three at a time — are housed. Most have been addicted to the Internet for five or more years, Tao said, are severely depressed and refuse counseling. These teens are under 24-hour supervision.
However, not everyone agrees this Tao’s old-fashioned approach can cure internet addiction. The Dallas Morning Star writes:
Guo Tiejun, a psychologist who runs an Internet-addiction research center in Shanghai, said the military-run clinic goes too far. He said he thinks that the root of the problem is loneliness and advocates a softer approach.
“They can’t make friends, can’t fulfill their desire of social communication, so they go online,” Mr. Guo said.
One wonders if such simplistic treatments can be effective or whether there will be recidivism among patients. Either way, it’s a wonderful business for the software developers, but could there be a backlash as in the American tobacco industry? Will we see law suits, public awareness campaigns, and clinics funded by the likes of Shanda, NetEase, and The9? In the interim, we have some stock picks for you.