Do you constantly yearn to go online?
Do you feel agitated and distressed when you don’t go online?
Do you experience difficulty in concentrating or getting to sleep?
If you display these symptoms amongst others, and you are online more than six hours a day, then according to a new manual on Internet Addiction Disorder (IAD), you would be diagnosed as a ‘Net addict’.
The IAD which could soon be adopted by China could be seen as a form of help for China’s Net addicts as net addiction becomes diagnosed as a real problem. China is probably the first country to classify Internet addiction as a clinical disorder. According to state media, the authorities are concerned about the increased “compulsive Web use by millions of Chinese”. Dr Tao Ran, who has researched pathological addictions in China, drafted the diagnostic manual with other psychologists in the Military General Hospital of Beijing. They came up with the manual after studying ‘1300 problematic computer users’.
According to another psychologist, Dr Kong Derong, “Web games are the biggest culprit for Internet-related crimes in China, especially World of Warcraft, which has made many young minds unable to tell the real from virtual world”. Hm…one wonders if WOW creators have something to say on that…
Recognising Internet addiction as a disorder just like alcohol or drug addiction could pave the way for more treatment procedures. In fact, China has already started some aggressive measures. It has a started a military-style boot camp, complete with electric-shock therapy to ‘wean’ younger addicts off their addiction, and it’s also started shutting down some Internet cafes and suspending their licenses as it was concerned that these were facilitating the addiction process.
It’s still not sure how successful these measures are. However, recent research indicates that “42 per cent of Chinese youngsters polled felt ‘addicted’ to the Web, as compared to 18% in the United States”. Many say that acknowledging your addition is the first step in the treatment process, so it looks like things are looking up for China’s net addicts.
However, some also this move in a more sinister light, and feel that China’s move to cut down the ‘negative’ influence of the Net, which includes people thinking and acting for themselves, is yet another extension of exercising control.
Also, some wonder, if the manual is adopted by other countries such as Singapore, what the rate of ‘net addiction’ would we get here? Electric-shock therapy, anyone?
Notwithstanding the quibbles over the yardsticks and motivations, Internet addiction is a serious problem, and does warrant serious attention. Perhaps, China’s step here is a way of prodding others to take the problem more seriously and to take some definitive measures to resolve it.