Hundreds of military-style boot camps set up across China in bid to tackle internet addiction among teenagers
- As many as 250 boot camps set up across China to tackle internet addiction
- Teachers and instructors use military instruction to instil habits of discipline
- Teenagers practice drills and carry out physical exercises while at camp
Military-style boot camps have been set up across China in a bid to help wean increasing numbers of teenagers off their addiction to the internet.
With growing numbers of young people in China developing online dependencies, parents are increasingly putting their trust in the methods used in the boot camps to tackle the issue.
As many as 250 camps have been set up across the country, with many requiring teenagers, closely supervised by former soldiers, to dress in army uniforms and practice drills in locked dormitories.
Teenagers are believed to be increasingly turning to playing online games to escape the competitive pressures in their lives.
In 2007, the China Communist Youth League said more than 17 per cent of its members aged 13 to 17 had an online dependency, The Telegraph reported in January this year.
One teenager, who gave only his surname, Wang, told Reuters: ‘My parents wanted me to study at home all day, and I was not allowed to play outside.’
He said his response was to retreat to the internet, spending large amounts of time playing his favourite online shooting game.
In one instance, he said, he played for three days straight, during which time he slept for less than an hour.
He said: ‘As I became addicted to the game, my school grades tumbled. But I gained another feeling of achievement by advancing to the next level in the game.’
Tao Ran, a psychologist who founded an ‘education centre’ for those addicted to the internet, told Reuters that teenagers such as Wang can lose their confidence and become vulnerable to depression and anxiety if they do not reach the aspirations their parents have for them.
Wang struggled through two years before he was diagnosed with ‘Internet Addiction Disorder’ and sent to the Qide Education Centre in the Chinese capital, Beijing.
Up to 70 per cent of the 110 teenagers being treated at the Beijing centre suffer from problems caused by overuse of the internet, mostly online games.
Teachers and military instructors aim to use military instruction to instil habits of discipline.
The methods are often considered to be more aggressive than clinics elsewhere in the world, including those in the U.S. which offer blocking and monitoring software and enforce internet bans.
‘Internet-addicted children are in very poor physical condition,’ said Xing Liming, an official of the centre.
‘Their obsession with the internet has harmed their health and they end up losing their ability to participate in a normal life.’
Students are required to do cleaning and washing and take turns helping to cook meals.
‘Education and living in a military environment makes them more disciplined and restores their ability to live a normal life,’ said Xing.
‘The training improves their physical strength and helps to develop good living habits.’
Besides the drill and physical exercises, the courses, which run between four and eight months, cover classes in music and Chinese lion dancing.
Counselling sessions with psychologists aim to help victims rebuild self-confidence and their ties to family and friends.
‘My dream job was to be a game designer, but I realised I could not achieve it because I am not good at math and English,’ said He, 23, who went through a six-month course that uncovered his passion for baking.
‘I think learning baking will help me find a job,’ he said.
The boot camps however are not always considered successful – one education centre in Beijing is being sued by a mother who says her daugher’s addiction worsened after a course last year.