Rebooting addicts: A look at China's internet boot camps

Staying at one of the mainland's many internet boot camps is no vacation, and participants are expected to endure harsh military-style training

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 05 July, 2014, 1:59pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 05 July, 2014, 2:01pm

Internet addiction has increasingly become a major problem among young people, and nowhere is this more true than in China, which is trying to tackle the problem by putting youngsters through their paces at boot camps.

A typical internet boot camp in China involves intense physical training and psychological counselling, as well as the prescription of drugs if doctors consider it necessary.

In the two Beijing camps depicted in these Reuters photographs - Qide Education Centre and Daxing Internet Addiction Treatment Centre - youngers are forced to take part in military-style drills, mandatory lectures and sessions of "practical" work, such as preparing vegetables, that are designed to wean them off of their computer addictions. 

“My parents wanted me to study at home all day, and I was not allowed to play outside,” said one teenager at the Qide Education Centre, surnamed Wang.

He added that he had frequently turned to the internet as a means of escaping social pressures, and had once played straight for more than three days in a row.

“As I became addicted to the game, my school grades tumbled. But I gained another feeling of achievement by advancing to the next level in the game."

Xing Liming, an official at the centre, said that teens typically arrive at a poor mental and physical state.

“Their obsession with the internet has harmed their health and they end up losing their ability to participate in a normal life,” Xing said. "Education and living in a military environment makes them more disciplined and restores [this] ability."

There are an estimated 250 boot camps located throughout the Chinese mainland.