Photos: Inside a Chinese Online Gaming Addiction Rehab
Military discipline meets group therapy.
These photos by award-winning photographer Fernando Moleres offer a window into China’s oldest Internet addiction treatment center, in Beijing. The facility, run by military doctor Toa Ren, has treated 5,000 people since 2004. Its aim is to break the habits of game-addicted teens through labor and military drills—the kind of “tough-love” approach that in the US is considered discredited and harmful for teens—while monitoring the effects of gaming on their neurological activity. There are currently 62 boys and six girls in treatment.
With approximately 632 million Internet users and 113,000 Internet cafes and bars around China, including 24-hour locations, Tao Ren estimates that there are 24 million Chinese people are addicted to gaming. He believes that the rising problem is partly due to the high number of children without siblings whose “parents work a lot and spend few hours at home.” Stiff competition and economic problems also contribute to the pressure on young people to do well at school, and online gaming can provide an escape, as well as a sense of community.
China’s Internet treatment centers are highly controversial. In 2009, 15-year-old Deng Senshan died less than a day after his parents sent him to a camp in the southern Guangxi province where he was allegedly beaten to death. And the Ministry of Health recently banned the use of electric shock therapy at another facility in eastern China.
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