Internet & Tech

Shock therapy

Curing internet addiction

A doctor in China claims to have discovered the cure to internet addiction. According to the China Daily, patients at Dr Yang Yongxin’s clinic are instructed to write confessions and kneel down in front of their parents to show obedience.

For the more rebellious, there is electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). This will be administered for transgressions of any one of the clinic’s 86 rules, which range from eating chocolate to the locking the bathroom door.

Despite his controversial psychological techniques, anxious parents are prepared to pay Rmb6,000 a month ($878) to send their internet-addicted children to Yang’s clinic. Already 3,000 youths have entered the programme and most are found to be “cured” or “reborn” after treatment, says Yang.

Details about Yang’s treatment regimen were recently revealed when former patients began to write about their experience. They claimed that electroshocks, some severe, were administered frequently.

Some have spoken up in Yang’s defence; a mother surnamed Xu told the China Daily: “Compared with being on mind-altering drugs for three months, electroshock is a safe and effective way to make my son calm and obedient.”

Rather shocking from any number of angles. And others are more sceptical. Tao Ran, director of China’s first internet addiction clinic, said that ECT is a last resort in treating patients – used on those with severe depression who are on the verge of committing suicide.

Hardly the same as adopting it to discourage internet usage. “It [ECT] will make patients more submissive no doubt, but at the same time, ECT will cause memory loss,” adds Tao, who says that Yang’s clinic is the first to apply ECT to internet addicts.

China already boasts nearly 300 million internet users, and the number of addicts is rising too. In 2008, about 10% of Chinese netizens between 13 and 30 suffered from internet addiction, according to a survey published by the China Youth Association for Network Development. Symptoms include depression, twitching, muscle weakness and anorexia.

Yang has struck a chord with those who worry that young Chinese are spending too much time in front of their computers. CCTV went so far to call him a “fighter” in the “Third Opium War,” praising his desire to combat the “spiritual opium” of internet obsession.

In efforts to reduce the internet dependence of their children, parents have forced some local authorities to shut down internet cafes. Online games operators are also required to install a “fatigue system” into their software that blocks users under 18 from playing more than three hours a day.

Keeping Track: In WiC19, we reported on a psychiatrist in Shandong who claimed he could cure internet addiction using electric shock therapy. This week, the Ministry of Health ordered a stop to the controversial practice, claiming
that the treatment’s safety has not been proven for excessive internet use. The battle against the country’s
growing internet addiction continues. (17 July 2009)


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