Last week, the Ministry of Health (MoH) stopped a clinic for internet addiction from administering shock treatments to young patients who broke its rules.
The MoH said it ordered the treatment stopped because there was no proof that it didn’t have negative side effects. This neatly sidestepped a more important question: Was the shock treatment – or the clinic itself – effective?
Probably not. First of all, Chinese media found out about the treatments after former patients complained about the treatment on an internet forum. Secondly, while patients were punished if they violated any of the clinic’s 86 rules, including eating chocolate or taking pills before meals, there wasn’t actually much in the way of treatment. All patients apparently had to do was say they weren’t addicted to the internet anymore.
In fact, former patients will probably want to spend more time in the online world because they’ve seen how painful the real one can be. A better treatment might have been to find out why these kids had gone to find solace in the online world in the first place – and how authorities, health professionals and parents can prevent that from turning into an addiction.
If they looked hard enough, they would most likely discover it’s because going online was the easiest option open to them. Hours of homework, cram sessions and extracurricular activities make the internet the easiest place for escape and to make friends when there’s little time to make them in the real world.
The solution: Give children time to explore the real world the way they explore the internet. Who knows, they might become addicted to climbing trees or playing games by the side of the road.