In China, there are actually rehab centers for teenage Internet addicts. It was reported that in the last week, a 19-year-old girl in one of the rehab centers located in Henan province died after being brutally kicked and thrown down by her instructors as part of a disciplinary training session. Why did the instructors beat her up? Because she didn’t ask for permission to go to the bathroom. That’s just crazy. The 19-year-old girl was called Guo Lingling. Her autopsy showed that she died from skull and brain damage.
Ever since China classified Internet addiction as a type of mental disorder back in 2008, parents have been sending their kids to these rehab centers to cure them through military-style training and to discipline them. Her death is the latest example of the effects of the military-style boot camps. The number of Internet addiction camps in China is estimated to be between 65 to 300 and some of them employ former Chinese military personnel.
Guo Lingling was a student at the Zhengzhou Boqiang New Idea Life Training School at the time of her death. The school has since been closed to pave way for investigations into her death. This was written on the school’s website: “Our aim is to accept, respect and care for lost children; help them become healthy, happy, smart and open-minded; lead the families to the road of happiness and harmony.” If that’s what they promised the parents, then why did Guo Lingling die?
Many of the students who went to Zhengzhou Boqiang tell different stories about Guo’s death. Students were forced to fall repeatedly to the ground on their faces or backs as punishment for any offense they committed. One of the students who went to Zhengzhou Boqiang told a reporter that they are not allowed to contact the outside world and that even their mail is checked by teachers to make sure that the students aren’t saying anything bad about the school.
A Chinese newspaper, Legal Evening News, had reported that there were at least 12 cases of physical abuse at centers like Zhengzhou Boqiang. Seven of which were fatalities. One of the cases involved a teenage boy who was beaten to death in one of Internet addiction camps back in 2009. During the same year, China’s Ministry of Health had ordered one hospital to stop using electric shock on teenage Internet addicts after it had been used as a “treatment” on about 3,000 patients.
Until this day, the debate on whether or not Internet addiction is a real mental disorder still persists. There is actually one Internet addiction rehab camp that opened in Pennsylvania, United States. When making a documentary on an Internet rehab facility near Beijing, the producer said, “In many cases, it seemed like parents were blaming the Internet for complex social and behavioral issues that may defy such interventions.”
A student, Fu Xiaokai, who attended Zhengzhou Boqiang had slipped back into his Internet surfing ways ever since the school was closed, so the father has been looking for another center for him ever since. The father was quoted saying “It would be alright if they didn’t punish so hard.”