Moderation is the key.
Thousands are believed to suffer in one form or another amid growing concern about young people’s use of chat rooms and online gaming, and a series of treatment centres have sprung up.
But it has emerged that some of the treatments on offer are as worrying as the condition, as the ministry of health moved to ban the use of electric shocks to cure chronic internet dependency.
Doctors released the first diagnostic definition of internet addiction last year, based on a study of more than 1,300 intensive users. It says addicts are those who spend at least six hours online a day and have shown at least one from a range of symptoms including a yearning to get back online, fear of social contact and difficulty concentrating or sleeping.
Other experts argue that the definition is far too general and many non-addicts qualify under it because the criteria are so vague. Critics warn moreover that some of the “cures” promoted to anxious parents were as worrying as the problem. A notice on the health ministry’s website said that the safety of the electric shock technology was not clear, so use of the therapy should be stopped.
The ban follows reports that Dr Yang Yongxin, from Linyi City’s psychiatric hospital, in Shandong province, was using electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). According to the Beijing News, Yang said he had created xingnao (“brain-waking”) therapy that involved sending a small current through the brain. He added the stimulation might cause pain but was very safe and would not harm children in any way.