November 29, 2013

Japan to Cure Teen Internet Addiction With Fasting Camps

Imagine youngsters engaged in different forms of outdoor games and activities. Several team-building group activities go on all around. Some sit at tables, talking and laughing, as they share meals. At their age, something is obviously missing - none is with a cellphone, laptop or any web-connected device.

This scenario, which emphasizes the value of face-to-face communication while starving participants of the internet, is what the Japanese government hopes to create next year, 2014. The government is calling it 'Internet fasting camps' and hopes it will help cure its internet addicted youth.

Additionally, at the camps next year, the children will attend counseling sessions with psychiatrists and clinical psychotherapists to identify the causes of Internet addiction.

The Japanese Ministry of Education and Japanese Health, Labour and Welfare Ministry plan to use these internet fasting camps and data from them to devise ways to fight Internet addiction in adolescents so students can learn to live away from their cellphones, computers and portable gaming consoles.

In an interview in August, Akifumi Sekine, a representative of the Ministry of Education, had told The Daily Telegraph, "It's becoming more and more of a problem. We estimate this affects around 518,000 children at middle and high schools across Japan, but that figure is rising and there could be far more cases, because we don't know about them all."

A Japan government-funded study had estimated that 518,000 students between the ages of 12 and 18 in junior-high and high school students across Japan were affected by this malady. Concerns heightened when a Nihon University study showed that 8.1 percent of 140,000 surveyed students were "pathologically" addicted to the Internet.

Of those addicted to the internet, 23 percent had trouble falling asleep and 43 percent slept less than 6 hours a night. Other symptoms included increasing absorption in and obsession with online activities at all hours of the day, symptoms of depression, decreasing school performance, and deep vein thrombosis.

Internet addiction has five key criteria, according to Mark D. Griffiths, a professor of psychology at the UK's Nottingham Trent University who wrote the book "Internet addiction: Does it really exist?":
  1. Salience: the Internet becomes the most important activity in the person's life, affecting feelings, behavior, and thoughts.
  2. Mood modification: the person receives an emotional "buzz" from using the Internet.
  3. Tolerance: the person becomes acclimatized, requiring increasing amounts of Internet time to get that "buzz."
  4. Withdrawal symptoms: abruptly ceasing Internet activity can cause the person emotional or physical distress.
  5. Relapse: the addict tends to fall back into the same behavior very easily, even after years of abstinence or control.
Still, Internet addiction remains a little-understood (though much studied and debated) phenomenon. Japan's program could help not just its own citizens, but also Internet addicts around the world by uncovering its root causes and examining ways to treat it.

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