Tags: Depression | Internet | addiction | health | problems | Chinese

Screen Addiction Taking Toll on Kids

By    |   Monday, 06 July 2015 01:05 PM


What effects are computer games having on children? A new PBS documentary explores the subject in a special to be shown on Monday. "Web Junkie" shows what happens when kids spend hours every day playing video games, often non-stop, with no food or bathroom breaks.

China is the first country in the world to declare Internet addiction a national health crisis. They believe excessive Internet time distorts reality, making the real world seem fake, and stops normal social development.

The Chinese government has established a three-month military-like rehabilitation program called Daxing Boot Camp to jolt kids back to reality.

"Web Junkie" producers interviewed Tao Ran, the founder of the world's first Internet addiction clinic. He believes that Internet addiction is China's No. 1 health problem. "It has surpassed any other problem," he told PBS.

"They are the same as heroin addicts," he said, except they are addicted to games.

At Daxing Boot Camp, which was developed for teens 13 to 18 years old, participants are isolated from all media and are under constant supervision as they undergo group therapy, brain scans, classroom sessions, and vigorous exercise. The new PBS documentary follows the treatment of three Internet-addicted teens who prefer the virtual world over the real one.

American children are facing the same Internet addictions. "We’re throwing screens at children all day long, giving them distractions rather than teaching them how to self-soothe, to calm themselves down, Catherine Steiner-Adair, a Harvard-affiliated clinical psychologist, told the New York Times.

A 2010 Kaiser Family Foundation study found that that children 8 to 18 years of age spend an average of 7 hours and 38 minutes using various media. Only 3 in 10 parents set limits on how much time they can spend watching television and playing video games.

Although the time spent texting wasn't counted in the total hours teens spent using media every day, the Kaiser study also found that the average teen spends more than an hour and a half texting.

"The amount of time young people spend with media has grown to where it’s even more than a full-time work week," said Drew Altman, Ph.D., President and CEO of the Kaiser Family Foundation. "When children are spending this much time doing anything, we need to understand how it’s affecting them – for good and bad."

Some of the influence is definitely bad. A 2007 study published in the Journal of Youth and Adolescence found that those who played violent video games were more aggressive than their peers, and that violent video games were "exemplary teachers of aggression."

The Kaiser study found that children who spent more time with electronic media read less and had lower grades. And Chinese study published in Pediatrics found that teens who used the Internet the most were more likely to be depressed.

"The bottom line is that all these advances in media technologies are making it even easier for young people to spend more and more time with media," said Victoria Rideout, Foundation Vice President and director of the study. "It’s more important than ever that researchers, policymakers and parents stay on top of the impact it’s having on their lives."

The Chinese boot camp program to treat Internet addiction raises questions for Americans. Is it effective? Can these kids be cured? And should teens be forced to undergo treatment? Although the questions remain unanswered, at least one teen appeared to have experienced some behavior modification, according to PBS. When leaving the facility, he said, "Dude, I don't ever want to come here again."

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What effects are computer games having on children? A new PBS documentary explores the subject in a special to be shown on Monday. Web Junkie shows what happens when kids spend hours every day playing video games, often non-stop, with no food or bathroom breaks. China is...
Internet, addiction, health, problems, Chinese
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2015-05-06
Monday, 06 July 2015 01:05 PM
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