Most psychologists now agree on the symptoms of internet addiction, which include spending more than six hours a day online. In China, this time is spent on activities such as playing games or looking at pornography.
In a country where high school and college students are under enormous pressure to succeed academically, a major concern is that the online activities completely overtake any real work or study.
There is also a growing incidence of violent and uncontrollable anger when the addicts can't get their 'fix'.
Just a month or so ago, the Ministry of Health in China issued a notice to internet addiction-treatment camps banning the use of electric shock therapy on Internet addicts. There is at least one hospital in eastern China that was confirmed as having employed these methods.
The latest news today, is that an investigation is underway over the death of a teenager who was allegedly beaten to death in a camp designed to treat Internet addiction.
15yo Deng Senshan died in a clinic to where he was taken on Sunday, after being found vomiting. This happened the very day after his parents sent him to the camp in southern Guangxi province. Other students at the camp have alleged that teacher had beaten him.
Several marks were found on the boy's body, and four trainers from the Qihang Salvation Training Camp in Nanning city have been detained. Deng's father is reported as saying that prior to entering the camp, his son spent all his time on the Internet, and that they became aware of the available 'rehab' treatement after seeing an advertisement on TV.
The concerns over excessive internet dependence is so widespread in China, that some rehabilitation camps even advertise on television now.
According to the Director of an Internet addiction treatment clinic in Beijing, Mr Tao Ran, "such deaths are bound to happen because few camps employ scientific methods, with most opting for crude military-style discipline... 40 percent of those addicted to the Internet suffer from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and find it difficult to obey orders at training camps... They are only one-fourth or one-fifth as efficient in their academic life... Once you put these kids to the training camps or schools, they are bound to have problems with the teachers, because ... they can't be still, while the training is all about keeping still."
Since 2004, Mr Tao's clinic in Beijing has treated more than 5,000 Internet addicts. Since then, there has been a huge increase in the number of treatment facilities in major cities... and the number of addicts being treated has also increased exponentially.
CHINA'S DEFINITION OF INTERNET ADDICTION
Beijing's Military Hospital, describe symptoms of addiction - they include a yearning to get back online, mental or physical distress, irritation and difficulty concentrating or sleeping. The definition, based on a study of more than 1,300 problematic computer users, classifies as addicts those who spend at least six hours online a day and have shown at least one symptom in the past three months.
"According to the China Youth Association for Network Development, Internet-addicted youths are more likely suffer frustration in interpersonal relations than their peers. Those aged 18 to 30 account for nearly half of the online population in China, which has been estimated at 210 million as of 2007 by the China Internet Network Information Center. About 10 percent of young users suffer Internet addiction, an earlier survey revealed, and about 70 percent are male." (China Daily)