Despite there being no agreed-upon definition of “Internet addiction” amongst international researchers, the Chinese health ministry has adopted a new manual recognizing Internet addiction as a legitimate medical disorder.
The new guidelines, likely to be adopted by the government next year, suggest that Internet users who spend six hours or more per day online could be diagnosed with the disorder. Users would also have to exhibit at least one additional symptom, such as difficulty sleeping or concentrating, a yearning to be online, irritation, and mental or physical distress.
The news was reported earlier in China Daily, which cited Chinese psychologists involved in drafting the diagnostic manual. They view the new disorder similar to compulsive gambling or alcoholism.
China has the world’s largest online population at 253 million people, according to official figures, and is growing rapidly as computer use rises along with income levels.
But that has also fed growing concerns over compulsive Internet use.
It’s now estimated that about 10 percent of China’s Internet users under the age of 18, or four million people, were addicted to the Internet. Officials claim that teens and children are mainly “addicted” to “unhealthy” online games.
Chinese officials put the number addicted at 14 percent of China’s Internet users in 2007.
The Chinese government has tried various measures to regulate the booming online gaming market and curb Web use by teens.
In 2005, China opened its first clinic designed to treat Internet addiction. According to a story in the Washington Post in early 2007, however, some treatment for Internet addiction resembled military-style “boot camps.”
In 2006, it ordered all Chinese Internet game manufacturers to install technology in their games that demands players reveal their real name and identification number.
Source: Wire reports