November 6, 2009

China Bans Physical Punishment For Net-Addicted Teens

China's Ministry of Health has banned the practice of physical punishment for teens that are addicted to the Internet, following the death of one 15-year-old.

The young boy, named Deng Senshan, was placed in an Internet addiction camp in China's Guangxi region, where he was physically abused and died hours after being admitted.

Days after the boy's death, teenager Pu Liang was sent to a hospital with water in the lungs and kidney failure after being abused at a camp in Sichuan Province.

There are reportedly more than 200 similar camps for Internet addiction within China, as the government views the Web habits of the young as unhealthy.

"When intervening to prevent improper use of the Internet, we should ... strictly prohibit restriction of personal freedom and physical punishments," the Ministry of Health in a statement on its Web site.

Reuters reported that the MOH appeared to have dropped the term "Internet addiction," which had been used in previous documents.

"Internet addiction is a disease, which can not be cured by military training or physical punishment," China's Xinhua news agency quoted Tao Ran, initiator of the definition on Internet addiction and director of the country's first Internet addiction clinic under the Beijing Military Command General Hospital.

"The guidance is a strong signal that the ministry has recognized Internet addiction as a mental disease, even it doesn't call it 'Internet addiction' in a straight way," Tao said.

AFP reported that local press claims China had up to 10 million teenage Internet addicts and a minimum of 400 Internet rehabilitation clinics.