More Chinese teenagers losing selves in cyberspace

Tue Jan 20, 2009 4:53am EST
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By Kitty Bu

BEIJING (Reuters Life!) - They can't sleep, can't concentrate and are wracked by bouts of anxiety or depression, and like anyone with a destructive bad habit, China's increasing number of Internet addicts need help, and need it fast.

The world's most populous country also has the world's largest Internet population, with 298 million users at the end of 2008 -- an increase of nearly 42 percent from the previous year, according to the China Internet Network Information Center.

Problems caused by Internet over-indulgence are also on the rise, especially among the young, who comprise the majority of Chinese "netizens."

Many Chinese youth are single children who bear the heavy expectations of parents alone. Internet cafes offer an escape route, and some find it hard to leave, leading to overuse.

About an hour's drive from Beijing lies China's largest center for weaning them off-line, the Beijing Taoran Internet Addiction Treatment Center, which recently had to move 60 patients to a new facility as its old buildings can no longer house new addicts arriving from all over the country.

Treatment consists of medical and psychological therapy, and doesn't come cheap: each patient pays about $1,500 a month and if the results are not satisfying, they extend their stay for a second or even a third month.

A large number of Internet addicts are also referred to psychiatric hospitals where they are treated for various conditions including obsessive compulsive disorder.