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Learning To Log Off

In early September,a hospital in Pennsylvania,US,began an inpatient programme to cure Internet addicts.

In early September,a hospital in Pennsylvania,US,began an inpatient programme to cure Internet addicts. With the Internet being accessible everywhere and all the time,the addiction to remain “logged in”,which started out as a social problem,has quickly turned into a health problem. Here’s a look at how nations are keeping their “obsessive” Internet users offline

When you’re an internet addict…

Different studies and tests have laid down parameters to help identify if one has become addicted. Some of the signs are:

PREOCCUPATION: spending more than 5 hours online daily

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WITHDRAWAL: symptoms like anxiety,irritability after days without Internet

HEIGHTENED: sense of euphoria while online

FAILING: to control,cut back or discontinue Internet use

LOSS: of interest in other hobbies,previous hobbies

REDUCED: loss of a relationship,job,education or career opportunities

PHYSICAL: changes such as weight gain or loss,backaches,headaches



* The US doesn’t formally recognise Internet addiction as an illness. However,it’s listed as a subject “worthy of further study”.

* The US has the highest Internet penetration,over 85 per cent of its population is “logged in”. Studies show that 1 out of every 8 Internet users shows signs of “excessive use”.

* In 2009,the first retreat centre for the “obsessed” came up in Washington. Called ‘reStart’,the “detox centre” provides spiritual recovery,weekend adventures and life-skills coaching.


* The Pennsylvania Hospital’s treatment consists of an “intensive 10-day digital treatment and stablisation programme”. Treatment here can set you back by $14,000.

* California’s ‘Camp Grounded’ is a gadget-free camp during summers.


* Although there has been an exponential growth in the number of Internet users in the past decade,it is still too early to know how affected the population is.


* A study published this year in the Indian Journal of Psychiatry concluded that only 0.7 per cent adolescents were addicts,while 74.5 per cent were moderate users.

* However,as more people are buying smartphones,the numbers could rise fast.



* Using a more military-like approach,China was the first country to classify Internet addiction as an official disorder and has even come up with a diagnostic manual. China’s first Internet addiction treatment centre started in 2005 at Beijing’s Military General Hospital.

* Among 591 million users,42 per cent are addicted. Adolescent young men make up the largest demographic,followed by women.

* Pioneered by Dr Tao Ran,a military researcher and colonel in the People’s Liberation Army,the infamous boot camps of China became the frontline of the battle against Internet addiction.


* In February 2013,a 14-year-old boy admitted to poisoning his family after his mother banned computer games.

* Till 2009,electric shock was a preferred method for treating Internet addicts.




* One of the first countries to identify Internet addiction as a serious issue.

* No. of addicts: 2.55 million. 160,000 are children between 5 and 9 years. 680,000 are between 10 and 19 years,according to the National Information Society Agency.


* Children in the age group of 3-5 will be taught to protect themselves from overusing digital gadgets. The government is also revising laws to make teaching the dangers of Internet addiction mandatory in schools.

* An estimated 2 million people receive government funded psychological treatment. The government provides counselling programmes to an estimated 2 million people.

SHUTDOWN LAW: The law introduced last year blocks under-16 kids from playing online games between midnight and 6 am. However,implementation has not been easy.



* While South Korea and China played good cop-bad cop,Japan turned a blind eye to Intenet addiction. Until now. Japan has come up with a different approach to treat addicts. 8 out of 10 people access the Internet using their smartphones and other devices.

* Japan has nearly 101 million Internet users—around 80 per cent of its population. 518,000 children—6 per cent junior high and 9 per cent senior high school students—are addicted to the Internet.

* According to a recent survey by the govt,of the 98,000 children surveyed,8 per cent were considered “pathologically” addicted to the Internet.

* Japanese authorities believe in ‘fasting’ camps. At these camps,children have no access to computers,smartphones and gaming devices. A handful of such centres are in operation.

SOURCES: International Telecommunication Union,TRAI,China Internet Network Information Centre,Telecommunication Carriers Association

First published on: 22-09-2013 at 00:32 IST
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