IN CHINA, if you are a kid who spends a long time online, you had better watch out. Your parents may send you off for “treatment”.
At the Internet Addiction Treatment Centre in Beijing, children must take part in military-style activities, including exercise drills and the singing of patriotic songs. They are denied access to the internet. One of the first experiences internees undergo is brain monitoring through electroencephalography (EEG). The programme is run by psychologist Tao Ran, who claims the brains of internet and heroin addicts display similarities.
The rise of such centres has, in some cases, been coupled with reports of brutality. One camp in Henan province was recently criticised after it was alleged that a 19-year-old girl died following corporal punishment doled out by officers.
“We had heard stories about electroshocks, physical torture and confinement, but we found none of those,” says Aldama.
“The children usually get angry when they know that they’ll be locked in the centre, where parents put them without prior notice. They deny suffering an addiction. But as time goes by, I believe they are more sociable and calm. They get in better physical shape thanks to the sports training,” Aldama says.