Shocking! China bans electroshock treatment of Internet addicts


Electric shock treatment at the Internet Addiction Treatment Center at Linyi Mental Hospital may be ending. The Center is one of several addiction treatment centers in China. Generally, their clients are youngsters who are unable to stay off the internet, to the detriment of their studies and family life. Most of the young patients were forceably sent to the eastern Shandong province hospital?s treatment program for shock therapy according to China Youth Daily, a renowned Chinese news source.

This hospital?s addiction program runs for four months and includes psychotropic drugs, electric shock therapy, and isolation from outside contact. The shock therapy is an aversion technique or punishment for constantly being on the Internet. Nearly 3,000 youngsters were subjected to this unproven approach under the direction of the controversial Doctor Yang Yongxin.

The Chinese "diagnose" persons as being Internet addicts as those who are on line more than six hours a day, playing games and looking at pornography, while letting educational and familial obligations lag, and getting angry when unable to get online.

Addicts or not, the population of China ranks number one in Internet users. Chinese surfers numbered almost 300 million at the end of 2008, according to the China Internet Network Information Center, the organization that administers China?s domain names and IP addresses. Ten percent of those users who are under 18 years of age are estimated to be addicted to the Internet according to the National People?s Congress, China?s highest legislative body.

From a purely medical standpoint, there is no such diagnosis as Internet Addiction. The extreme measures administered at the mental hospital have been condemned by the Ministry of Health which stated that "it has no foundation in clinical research or evidence and therefore is not appropriate for clinical application." Historically, electric shock has typically been used instead used to treat depression. Additionally, China Youth Daily claims that Dr. Yang and his six colleagues are not qualified psychotherapists to begin with.

Yang?s procedure included attaching electrodes to the patient’s hands or temples and administering electric shocks of between 1 and 5 milliamperes. He claims that although the shocks are painful, they do not affect the brain or damage the body.

Most parents of children who have undergone the treatment appear to be in favor of it, but medical experts have expressed concern. The Shanghai Mental Health Center, in contrast to the Linyi Mental Hospital, said they only used psychological counseling and medication in their treatment program according to Shanghai Daily

The Chinese have made some progress deterring online gaming hours with a more reasonable approach. In March, 2009, Xinhua reported that Chinese online game players under the age of 18 dropped seven percent since 2007. They attribute the decline to an anti-online game addiction system where game operators in China are required to discourage minors from playing their games for more than three hours a day. As a start, online gamers have to register using their real names and identity card numbers which indicated their age. Gaming credits earned by under-age players are cancelled if they are online more than three hours a day. Children online for more than five hours forfeited all their gaming credits.

In an effort to protect not only children, but all its citizens from Internet pornography, China’s government has conducted numerous censorship efforts. Earlier this year, the crackdown resulted in 29 criminal cases and the ordered removal of 46,000 pornographic and other "harmful" items from websites.