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China The Internet

'Web Junkie': Harrowing Documentary On China's Internet Addiction Rehab Clinics 94

Posted by Soulskill
from the you-are-addicted-to-breathing dept.
cold fjord writes "The Daily Beast reports on Web Junkie, a documentary showing the unsettling efforts undertaken by the Internet Addiction Treatment Center in China to break teenagers of their internet habits. Quoting: 'China was one of the first countries to brand "Internet addiction" as a clinical disorder, and to claim it's the number one threat to its teenagers today. The Chinese government has erected 400 rehabilitation boot camps like this one ... a bizarre hybrid of military barracks and mental hospital. ... Every room in the facility is monitored by cameras. ... Teens spend a minimum of three months at Daxing. ... Wires and nodes will be hooked to their head ... they're administered daily medication (without being told what it is), they have to keep their rooms spotless, partake in individual and group therapy sessions with their parents, and do boot camp-style exercise ... One kid in the film claims to have played World of Warcraft for 300 hours straight, taking only tiny naps in between. ... "Some kids are so hooked on these games they think going to the bathroom will affect their performance. So they wear a diaper. These are the same as heroin addicts. ... That's why we call it electronic heroin."' Wired has further details and a clip from the documentary."
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'Web Junkie': Harrowing Documentary On China's Internet Addiction Rehab Clinics

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  • by vikingpower (768921) <exercitussolus@gma[ ]com ['il.' in gap]> on Tuesday January 21, 2014 @06:22PM (#46030049) Homepage Journal
    That is what I need, to keep reading /. !
  • by Anonymous Coward

    ...not warcraft!

  • by Joe_Dragon (2206452) on Tuesday January 21, 2014 @06:24PM (#46030061)

    MMORPG can maybe be changed so you don't need to be on 24/7 to get the most of them / fell like you are paying for it so you better play 24/7.

    Other games have more breaks build in and you don't have to play 24/7.

    • by interkin3tic (1469267) on Tuesday January 21, 2014 @06:46PM (#46030251)
      Only a few people are going to such extremes: the fault lies with them, not the game. I've heard suggestions that even heroin isn't universally addictive, you need to be predisposed to become addicted in order to end up selling yourself etc. I'm skeptical that one can become addicted to WOW, to the point that they wear diapers and play 300 hours straight, without some other problem. And I'm guessing that problem has other negative effects outside of "I play WOW too much."

      My point is that the addicts need to change. Changing the games to try to be a nanny for the addicts seems futile: they'll just get addicted to something else.

      I doubt that these extreme rehab clinics are the way to do it, I'm skeptical that they take a very scientific approach, but changing the world to cure an individuals addiction is a dumber approach.
      • by HiThere (15173)

        Actually, yes. Originally Heroin was marked as an addicition free morphine derivative. Well, the 25 (I think it was) people they tested it on didn't get addicted....

      • by ultranova (717540)

        Only a few people are going to such extremes

        Or, more likely, no one is and the article is just China selling its re-education camps with a "think of the chiiildren" moral panic.

    • by ackthpt (218170) on Tuesday January 21, 2014 @06:47PM (#46030255) Homepage Journal

      MMORPG can maybe be changed so you don't need to be on 24/7 to get the most of them / fell like you are paying for it so you better play 24/7.

      Other games have more breaks build in and you don't have to play 24/7.

      Here's some historical anecdotal stuff to chew on...

      Long before Warcraft the were MUDs, where people played like addicted players on National Player Addiction Day. I know, I was once one. The terms Life Suck and Time Sink were well known among us, though we laughed it off as we could quit whenever we wanted, though not just yet.

      Before I got sucked into mudding I traveled Europe and met a couple in a restaurant in Brugge, Belgium. As I was an American on holiday, this husband and wife wanted to know a little about what life was like in the states and what I did for a living. Their living was currently treating people for Network Addiction - those people who were so glued to every post on a Fido (or other) board they couldn't function outside of hitting Reload every 10 seconds to see if they had any replies. Flamewars were what they lived for, a reason to participate and be heard (even if today nobody remembers any of it.) This meeting was in early January, 1994. Not a new thing, so it turns out. My younger brother was one of those who would do anything (include lie and steal) to keep his connection to a BBS going. They completely understood.

    • by Bacon Bits (926911) on Tuesday January 21, 2014 @06:56PM (#46030315)

      MMORPG can maybe be changed so you don't need to be on 24/7 to get the most of them / fell like you are paying for it so you better play 24/7.

      Pretty much this. They build in pressure to play, or return to continue playing. WoW's rest XP was supposed to combat this, but in reality it just doesn't. Certainly once you hit level cap rest XP does fuck all for encouraging you to log off. Battle.Net ladders and all competitive rewards simply reward expertise gained from a small amount of talent and a tremendous amount of time. Keeping your subscription current, buying this year's multi-player FPS encourage return and repeat buyers. Mobile and web-based games like Farmville (and, I assume, Candy Crush) have incentives and micro-transactions to encourage time investments. Even games with time limits have amounts you can pay for extra time. "Fremium" games seem to be the most egregious violators. These games are built to be addicting, not entertaining.

      The only real world analogs I can think of are TCGs and casino games. Is that what this is? An adapted gambling addiction?

      • I can think of another real world addiction: buying/collecting tons of useless crap, and hoard everything they see. The funny thing is, getting these people onto games like WoW would only improve their life - instead of wasting money on crap that takes up precious space in tiny apartments, for $15 / month they can satisfy the collector urge without cluttering the apartment.

        The funny thing is, once I realized this effect, I was able to benefit from it without actually playing the game. Every time I think "

        • by ackthpt (218170)

          I can think of another real world addiction: buying/collecting tons of useless crap, and hoard everything they see. The funny thing is, getting these people onto games like WoW would only improve their life - instead of wasting money on crap that takes up precious space in tiny apartments, for $15 / month they can satisfy the collector urge without cluttering the apartment.

          The funny thing is, once I realized this effect, I was able to benefit from it without actually playing the game. Every time I think "it'd be neat to have $USELESS_THING", I'd switch my thoughts over to "or I could reactivate my WoW account and work towards $TIMESINK_ACHIEVEMENT" and with that, I avoid both wasting time and buying useless crap.

          Several years ago the Detroit Free Press had a story on a family, presumably living on welfare, who all were massive online gaming addicts. Only one example, but the article touched on several other cases where adults as well as children were hooked and couldn't part ways with leveling, fighting NPCs (or other players) getting LEET EQZ, etc. Don't blame the gaming companies, I always hear, it's not their fault people have a genetic predisposition to gaming. (You'd think they could find a paying professio

      • I agree that wow is very time consuming, but in reality unless you play multiple characters you can't find anything else to do after playing around 40 hours (which is comparable to a full-time job) per week. Even if you are in a hard-core raiding guild.

        The fact is that these people either level play with multiple characters or just sit around doing nothing or talking with guildmates in the game. It's not so much an addiction, but something more like "I have nothing better to do so I might as well just keep

      • Certainly once you hit level cap rest XP does fuck all for encouraging you to log off.

        Once you hit level cap, the problem was more finding a reason to log *on*. Raiding was an exercise in frustration, except in pre-organised guild groups that ran maybe once or twice a week. There was nothing to do outside those times, other than maybe one of hundred or so rep-grinds. Many people I know only logged on for the raids; others (including me) started a new alt whenever they hit the level cap.

    • by RogueyWon (735973) on Tuesday January 21, 2014 @07:04PM (#46030403) Journal

      I've played MMORPGs on and off since 2003. If anything, the trend these days in MMOs in the West is very much against needing the kind of time commitment that was common in the early days of the genre.

      In the days before WoW, MMOs generally required a very, very serious investment of time if you really wanted to get much out of them. In Final Fantasy XI, which was (by the most reliable metrics) the most successful pre-WoW MMORPG, simply reaching maximum level would require many months of playtime, most of which was spent grinding (killing enemies over and over again in a repetitive cycle). The end-game content would require many, many consecutive hours spent waiting for rare monsters to spawn. I was working a job with more or less 9-to-5 hours when I played it, which meant I could never get to the top ranks. But for the 18 months or so I played it seriously, it was by far my most time consuming leisure activity (probably peaking at around 30 hours a week).

      Part of the reason behind WoW's success was that, by design, it eliminated much of the timesink component that had previously been associated with the genre. The level-up process was pretty fast; weeks rather than months for an average gamer (and probably only days when measured in time actually spent in-game). The days of camping timed monster spawns were largely gone, replaced by "instanced" end-game content that guilds could schedule at will. In theory, the time commitment required fell a lot with WoW - and almost every other global MMORPG since has followed WoW in this streamlining.

      Of course, WoW certainly didn't end the "MMOs ate my life" stories. In fact, by opening the genre to a wider audience, it increased their frequency. WoW touched off a very competitive streak in a lot of people; and to be one of the most successful guilds in progress terms, you needed to put in a fairly serious schedule of raids (the instanced end-game dungeons). An average guild schedule would have 4 raids per week of 4 hours each, with a 75% attendance requirement for players. On top of this, most players would need to spend at least a couple more hours making in-game money to finance their raiding activities. And many players would have more than one character. So the time required to play at the high levels was still fairly severe. But at least players had the option of more casual play schedules, while still getting some measure of enjoyment out of the game.

      And over the years, Blizzard (and their competitors) have actually worked to blunt the edges of the most punishing raid schedules and have, in essence, throttled access to end-game content so that there's much less point in sinking your whole life into the game. There are generally limits (sometimes hard, sometimes soft) on how much progress players can make in a week. You won't be locked out of the game after a certain period (outside of China, or unless parental controls are enabled), but you will rapidly run into diminishing returns. This holds true across most current MMOs; WoW, Old Republic, Lord of the Rings Online, Final Fantasy 14 and so on. The only possible exception (and I don't play it so I can't say for sure) is Eve Online.

      So basically, if you are playing a modern "global" MMORPG and you are pumping your whole life into the game, you are playing it wrong. Of course, some people do still play it this way and some Asian MMORPGs are still designed around older mechanics that make a near-whole-life commitment essential. But the people who pumping their whole life into WoW, or who choose to play those Asian MMOs despite their many shortcomings compared to superior "global" offerings are almost certainly doing so because of other issues in their life rather than the game mechanics.

      • by cyn1c77 (928549)

        I've played MMORPGs on and off since 2003. If anything, the trend these days in MMOs in the West is very much against needing the kind of time commitment that was common in the early days of the genre.

        In the days before WoW, MMOs generally required a very, very serious investment of time if you really wanted to get much out of them. In Final Fantasy XI, which was (by the most reliable metrics) the most successful pre-WoW MMORPG, simply reaching maximum level would require many months of playtime, most of which was spent grinding (killing enemies over and over again in a repetitive cycle). The end-game content would require many, many consecutive hours spent waiting for rare monsters to spawn. I was working a job with more or less 9-to-5 hours when I played it, which meant I could never get to the top ranks. But for the 18 months or so I played it seriously, it was by far my most time consuming leisure activity (probably peaking at around 30 hours a week).

        When I was a kid, we had to walk 1,000,000,000,000,000 miles to school....

        Seriously, I have played computer games since before personal computers had hard drives and many others here have too. Grinding is not a new concept.

        Every RPG has an element of grinding. When you bring people together online, the grinding has to be magnified to increase the level competition among the larger player set.

        FPS games became almost identical once they added online server scoreboards.

        Before computer games, kids collected b

      • I just wanted to add that if you do hard-core raiding in the first 3-5 weeks of the new raid you will be playing a lot more often than usual. But that only happens every few months. Being in the "First-kills" guilds is almost a full time job during the first few weeks of a new patch. After the new raids have been completely cleared by your guild the work-load required to stay competitive reduces gradually to almost nothing.

        In hard-core pvp though once you reach a rating growth you are comfortable for the we

  • As soon as they're out, they'll tell us all the details on facebook.

  • Drugs aren't the problem, they're the solution. Life is the problem.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    as unpopular as it is, I think it's true -- I've known several people (myself included) who have spent gawd know how many hours (1000s easily) on mmos especially. I've been playing mmos since EQ in 1999. While I may try to justify it by calling it a hobby, comparing it to other forms of media (books, movies, etc) that people 'waste' time on, it really has at times been interfered with other parts of my life -- work & family especially. I play less now because I'm bored with them since they're really the

    • by 0racle (667029)

      I play less now because I'm bored with them since they're really the same rinse and repeat grind

      Ya that happens to heroin addicts all the time. It's just the same damn high time after time, they get bored of it and stop.

      Just admit you didn't have the self control to curtail something you wanted to do. Quit trying to hide behind some 'it's not my fault" excuse.

    • by Mashiki (184564)

      It is a hobby, I'll be I, or anyone on /. or in general can tell you the number of times I get obsessed over books, movies, etc, and kept going, and going, and going. Until it interferes with a part of their life as well.

      Simply because it's one thing, doesn't mean people don't do the same thing with other hobbies. I had a girlfriend who's hobby was knitting, and knitting to the point where it actively interfered with our relationship...that's all she wanted to do. I even had buddies from back in my highs

  • by ScottCooperDotNet (929575) on Tuesday January 21, 2014 @06:34PM (#46030151)

    There is a longstanding trend in the USA for parents to be ever more cautious about where and what their children do, and it seems to have correlated with the century-long decrease in the number of children per woman. Many kids now spend more time inside than previous generations, so they don't develop as strong social skills as they might have. This allows the Internet to somewhat supplement face-to-face contact, and adds considerable anxiety to going outside.

    So I wonder if there is a correlation with China's One Child Policy, where parents may be more likely to shelter their only child? Or is there some other cultural cause?

    • I think it has more to do with much more electronic diversions these days from internet, games, cable TV, etc. When I grew up there were only 7 channels and if the President was on TV for an address, you had to read a book because he was on all the channels. If you wanted a video you had to go in town to the rental store. Gaming was starting to become bigger but it wasn't like it is today.
      • Sigh... When I grew up there were 4 channels and if you wanted a video people looked at you strangely, because that hadn't been invented yet. Gaming was big, but it meant going outside and getting some friends together for baseball or basketball (or something that you just invented on the spot). Your parents didn't worry about where you were, as long as you were home for dinner and bedtime.

        Alas, now I spend the bulk of my waking hours, at work and at home, sitting in front of a screen. Yes, I do miss the go

        • 4 channels. . . psh. Someone didn't do a very good job with the rabbit ears. :P As for gaming, we spent most of the time outdoors unless the weather forced us in. And at time our parents forced us out to get us out of their hair for a while.
        • Well you have to compare to what other adults did for a living back in the old days. The white collar did sit in a desk all day, but reading and writing papers. The blue collar spent all his day operating a machine in a repetitive task, if you ask any blue collar after a few years they would say they would love to have a desk job in a air-refrigerated room.

          As for what you do in your home time, you could try going out more? The only difference today is that you have more options.

    • Many kids now spend more time inside than previous generations ...

      I saw this story a number of years ago and it stuck with me. For some reason the map originally with it doesn't show up any more, but you can see it in the second link.

      How children lost the right to roam in four generations [dailymail.co.uk] - Map [bikede.org]

    • Many kids now spend more time inside than previous generations, so they don't develop as strong social skills as they might have.

      The globe is getting more crowded. The children are developing the appropriate social skills to their day and age and local population density.

      This allows the Internet to somewhat supplement face-to-face contact, and adds considerable anxiety to going outside.

      No, I think it's the existence of the internet that allows the internet to somewhat supplant face to face contact. The internet is where life goes on these days. For our parents, that technology did not exist, and gasoline was much cheaper. As a result their lives were lived more often in cars and places you can get to with cars (your local downtown, parks and ot

    • by PNutts (199112)

      So I wonder if there is a correlation with China's One Child Policy, where parents may be more likely to shelter their only child? Or is there some other cultural cause?

      Ancient Chinese secret.

    • by c0lo (1497653)

      So I wonder if there is a correlation with China's One Child Policy, where parents may be more likely to shelter their only child? Or is there some other cultural cause?

      There will be one in the future... gaming addiction will have the effect of No Child, policy or not.

    • Same in the UK. I'd add some blame to the media too. Scare stories drive high ratings, and they love a good sex scandal for the same reason. They've so saturated their coverage that they've got much of the UK on a pedophile witchhunt now - parents are terrified to let their children associate even with other children unless their parents have been subject to a criminal background check first.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Why the alarmist tone ? They are not shooting anyone, they are not spreading disease, just some wankers pissing their best years away. I fail to see how achieving success in the teenager social mob is in any way a superior activity to unlocking the "Sword of a Thousand Truths" or getting a +5 Insightful comment. There is no spoon, yeah I said it.

  • Come on man just 2 more gigabites of data! It will hold me over!
    (Scratches neck like crack head)

  • ...'electronic heroin' is spot on. Seeing rockstars talk about heroin in highschool anti-drug films pretty much sums up how I felt about WoW, having recently been cut off by my brother's cancelled subscription. While I wasn't an addict, I still had fucking DREAMS about being in the game & listening to it's beautifully orchestrated music, bright colorful graphics maxed out on my integrated intel hardware because I was so badass at systems optimization...anyone got a subscription? I'm itching man!
    • Hey ! PSSSST ! Want a subscription real cheap ? I got some good stuff here, man ! Wanna have a go ? Yeah, you can try it for free for 10 minutes....
    • by HiThere (15173)

      Get a clue to how your mind works:
      ANYTHING you pay a lot of attention to over a reasonable period of time will start showing up in your dreams. ANYTHING. If you have a strong emotional reaction, of any sort, that just strengthens it, but I've had times when I dreamed about spreadsheets, which was difficult, because they weren't spreadsheets about anything in particular, but just spreadsheets as in numbers (illegible, uninterpreted) laid out in a grid.

      If you want a really wierd experience, read James Joyce

      • I've had dreams consisting entirely of text conversations with friends. It usually ends with the realisation that I'm dreaming, and the other end of the conversation is generated internally - then the realisation that this means whatever I say to them, they won't remember. Generally good for a bit of fun.

  • I tried to lower my "eating addiction" in order to stop my "going to the bathroom" addiction, but it only made my "I need to sleep" addiction even worst.

  • What a stark contrast. The Daily Beast article [thedailybeast.com] speaks of "prison" and "bizarre hybrid" and "wires and nodes" and "forced medication", while the promotional clip for the movie [wired.com] posted on Wired shows the supposed victims of this cruel outrage sitting around in a decent environment playing cards, happily shooting the BS, and generally enjoying their leisure time.

    I think I'll put more weight on the video and less on the sensationalist Beast article.

    • I know what you mean. Look at this weight lifting scene [youtube.com] from a prison documentary. Everyone looks happy and like they want to be there. Obviously prison isn't so bad and we can safely ignore reports of crowded cells, fights, boredom, despair, and other troubles.

      • I know what you mean. Look at this weight lifting scene [youtube.com] from a prison documentary. Everyone looks happy and like they want to be there. Obviously prison isn't so bad and we can safely ignore reports of crowded cells, fights, boredom, despair, and other troubles.

        LOL

        Maybe I misread something along the way, but the DB article appeared to me to be about the same facility as the promo video for the documentary. The same specific facility.

        So with two sources of information about a specific facility presented to me, I simply said I gave more weight to the information in the video as opposed to the (IMO) clearly sensationalist Beast article. I did not say I or you or anyone else should ignore the Beast article

        But nice try at putting words into my mouth (though I wounder

  • Really, the parents can's just take away the kid's computer and money for accounts? I don't think I would trust this place with my kids. While I am sure some kids have a real problem, unlike most drugs computer games have no physically addictive properties. This sounds like overkill to me, whipping up parents fears against reason. I have two kids, two full time plus working parents and we have enought control to at least cut the kids off when we need to. I can't see how this kind of nonsense is needed.
    • As someone who has worked at a casino for several years, I would say that the opposite is the case: game addiction is in some aspects worse than substance addiction *because* it does not have a chemical substance. That means no nicotine patches, no alcohol-free beer, no replacement therapy.

      UMO, MMOs and farmville-like games are built on the same psychological principles as slot machines. They extract money on a slower rate therefore they end up consuming more of addict's time. But the principle of pressing

      • Well, to be clear I don't deny addiction can be real (as I mentioned in my post), but on the face of it this program seems more like a feel good "get tough" kind of solution than a real one based in science. Indeed the one size fits all kind of approach doesn’t sound like treating underlying issues to me.
  • am I the only one who thinks it's strange how it is difficult/impossible to watch these videos online?
  • What's with all the goofy procedures and meds? Simply send them to a regular mountain camp with tents and stuff and make them sing camp songs, hike, fish, and roast marshmallows. And if they become normal enough, they'll even try to sneak into the girl's camp.

  • In a country with an ideology and political system with a history of "re-education" camps designed to purge thinking inconsistent with the party's official doctrine, I wonder how much of this is just something designed to appease party ideologues, the party equivalent of evangelical Christians, especially in an era of state sanctioned capitalism.

    Although I can see how MMORPGs promote a kind of relentless, it-never-stops gameplay, especially for games where not playing can cause you to lose in-game status, e

  • why is it that i've only heard of "internet addiction" being a problem in china and it only being a problem in minors? there seems to be a large piece of the puzzle missing and possibly being swept under the rug.

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