Last month, a 16-year-old girl was arrested in Heilongjiang, a province in northern China, for stabbing her father, tying her mother to a chair for a week, and letting her starve to death.

The girl was enacting revenge on her parents after they took her to Shadong Science and Technology Defense Training site, a private rehab facility for Internet addicts, where she  stayed for four months, during which she complained of being abused and humiliated.  

Her revenge plot also included extorting money from her relatives, and taking pictures and recording videos of her mother throughout the week she was held captive.

Extreme detox

Since 2008, when China became the first country to classify Internet addiction as a clinical mental illness, several other shocking events caused the world pay to close attention to the Chinese approach of treating internet addiction.

In 2009, a 15-year-old was beaten to death two days after his parents enrolled him in a treatment program at Guangzhou Determined Youth Growth Guidance Center in Guangxi province. In 2014, a 19-year-old girl died from severe skull injuries after being lifted and then dropped on the ground while in treatment in Henan province. Last year, another 19-year-old cut off his own left hand to try to end his Internet addiction and a 24-year-old died in a café in Shanghai, after gaming for over 19 hours.

The more one learns about China’s various Internet addiction boot camps the more dangerous they seem. Archaic and in some cases torturous methods including electric shock, hypnosis, exposure to extreme temperatures, whippings, and overall military discipline are commonplace  and explain why most people who enter those treatment centers don’t do it voluntarily but are forced to go by their parents or teachers.

A 2008 cross-national study of Internet addiction examined 314 Chinese and U.S. college students regarding ten different Internet addiction symptoms found that 20 Chinese students (14 percent) were heavily addicted to the Internet, 92 Chinese students (64 percent) were slightly addicted to the Internet, and 31 Chinese students (22 percent) weren’t addicted to the Internet. In contrast, among American students only 7 (4 percent) were heavily addicted to the Internet, 40 (23 percent) were slightly addicted and 125 students (73 percent) were not addicted to at all.

A problem that transcends borders and age

Although China has gotten a lot of attention for its growing Internet addiction problem, similar tales of people neglecting their most basic physiological needs for a cyber fix have been happening around the world.  

Last February, two Indian brothers (a 19-year-old and a 22-year-old) who were addicted to the Internet were required to spend a month in a… (continue reading)