High Voltage Cut-Off for the Internet-Addicted

Saturday, July 18th, 2009

Good news from the German pressetext website: On-line addiction – China stops electro-shock therapy. The Chinese (meaning, of course, from the People’s Republic) have for a while now been alarmed at the epidemic of Internet-addiction that has been plaguing their citizens, which scourge should be no surprise in view of the fact that the number of Chinese Internet users now exceeds even the total US population. As you might imagine, this overwhelmingly afflicts the young, and yes, the Chinese authorities’ solution has mainly been some electro-shock therapy, which to this observer does seem both rather harsh and questionable on sheer grounds of effectiveness (unless it’s just a matter of pure deterrence: “We catch you playing World of Warcraft again and its the electrodes for you!”). Indeed, according to this report the Chinese take this method one step further: “patients” must also get on their knees before their parents for “therapy” and are allowed to speak of nothing else other than their determination to beat their addiction.

Now the Health Ministry has announce this sort of “treatment” will be stopped. Ironically enough (and, frankly, also implausibly), it is supposedly doing so due to a huge wave of protest against the practice that has welled up over the Internet, of which a crucial component is expressions of doubts from actual psychology experts that such extreme methods really work at all. That’s also the opinion here of Bernd Dillinger, who is involved with an Austrian anti-Internet-addiction treatment site, the Institute for the Prevention of Online Addiction, who states “That they try in China to cure online-addicts with electro-shocks is completely incomprehensible to me personally. Such a procedure is in fact only possible in totalitarian states, among us it would be unthinkable.”

So what is appropriate treatment? Well, they’re still trying to come up with one that can be generally accepted, but at this point experts can already agree that the problem should be treated in a “value-less” way, i.e. assigning no blame, and that attractive alternative activities should be brought forward to engage the patient’s leisure-time. Naturally, this is not only a problem among the Chinese; estimates of how many Internet-addicts there are in German-speaking countries are still imprecise, but Dillinger assesses the total at around 1.5% to 3% of all Internet users.

UPDATE: Here’s a new report from the AP: yes, they’ve stopped the electro-shock therapy to treat Internet addiction in China, but people are dying at their “boot camp”-style treatment camps nonetheless!

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