This is a continuation of the article “Log in, Sign out” about the massive increase in Internet use in China, resulting in what has now been classified by Chinese authorities as Internet addiction. There are apparent problems that this new addiction has caused: please read part one for more information.
What’s Being Done
There have been restrictions on Internet cafes limiting users under the age of eighteen to a maximum of three hours at a stretch, and some not allowing minors at all. While that may curb youth cyber cafe (网吧, wǎngbā) usage it still does not prevent cases like the one that the Beijing News reported of a 30-year-old man in Guangzhou dying in an Internet cafe after a three day long online gaming binge. This is not the only Chinese online video game related death; there have been at least two other cases that have resulted in death and cases of people collapsing due to exhaustion from online gaming.
So since the problem has been growing despite previously mentioned restrictions, the burden of the solution lands on the shoulders of the individual and often parents. When parents notice this kind of behavior often they try to unplug their kids, but in some cases such actions have been met with extreme reactions and retaliation. A story from china.org references an incident of a fourteen year old striking his father after he turned off his computer during a gaming marathon on his twentieth hour. A more creative approach was taken by another Chinese father. Sanqinq Daily reports a story of the father hiring an online hit man to assassinate his sons character every time he logged onto the game. Sadly the son did not stop playing the game and get a job like his father desired. A situation that is not at all foreign to parents of addicts of all types.
An extreme case of retaliation was reported by China Daily from Ziyang, Sichuan province, where police recently detained a 14-year-old boy suspected of poisoning his family after he was banned by his mother from playing video games. The boy is accused of pouring farm chemicals into edible oil. It is alleged his actions caused his parents, elder brother and sister-in-law to suffer stomach problems, vomiting and other adverse effects. The family did end up recovering and the boy has apologized, for what it’s worth.
Other parents have put matters into someone else’s hands; there are a number of rehabilitation (复原, fùyuán) and boot camp like facilities that claim to be able to cure the addiction. The previously mentioned Dr. Tao is one such person who claims he can treat and cure the addiction in a very high percentage of patients through three months of counseling, confidence-building activities, sex education, and in over half of the cases, medication. The program is aimed at addressing underlying family, social, and psychological problems, and increasing their self-confidence.
There are hundreds of treatment facilities in China and some prevalent ones are military style boot camps that specialize in Internet addictions; they would often have the participants engage in hours of running, military drills, and other strenuous physical activity. One was set up to force the kids to walk long distances hoping to tire them out to much to even desire to go online. Some even used to use electric shock therapy (电击疗法, diànjí liáofǎ), but it has since been banned. China.org reports that these sort of establishments have fallen under scrutiny since August of 2009 when a 15-year-old student from Guangxi Zhuang was reportedly beaten to death by a camp instructors.
There is a lot of money to be made in treating this new addiction and with that prospect of income many more of these treatment facilities have sprung up, and there is little way of knowing if they will work or even more importantly if they are beneficial. It is a problem not unlike all other addictions. There are rehab and treatment institutions all over the world, sometimes they work and sometimes they don’t. This situation is no different.
The problem of Internet and online gaming addiction is the same as all addiction, the real issue is escaping. Going online is just one of the newest and easiest ways to leave the “real” world. When life is not what people want they can escape, this is nothing new to people anywhere. The Internet and all it has to offer is just the newest way to depart reality; in the past it has been smoking, drugs, sex, over eating for some and the bottle for many. The desire to escape is not a recent phenomenon, people have been smoking, gaming, zoning out in front of the TV, or drinking for thousands of years. Is it within the human condition to try to part from reality? If so, then why do we the collective human people find it so necessary to try and escape our reality? Is life really that terrible, or is escaping that addictive?