Thursday, August 24, 2006

Shanghai: Halfway house for Internet addicts opens

From Reuters today, a story about China's first "halfway house for Internet addicts," that just opened in Shanghai. The place offers troubled teens counselling, books, and the use of computers.
The government has attempted to implement policies aimed at to curbing the 'hookage' by issuing a number of restrictions, including fining cafes that admit minors and the like. But to no avail. The country has an estimated 14 million participants in computer/online gaming, a number that is only increasing as the country becomes more wired (but trying to be less 'hooked'?).
My take on this halfway house of sorts is--go for it, but for this reason: In a country like China, where things are changing so fast, there are a number of social issues that fall by the wayside. There are going to be troubled teens no matter what. My ethnography from Korea says that much and has eerie parallels. That the services are centered around the ideas, baggage, and rhetoric of an "Internet addiction" is just part of the equation, but if it gets troubled teens the services they need to better deal with their changing circumstances and culture, then it's better than the services not being offered at all. Rather, it seems that this is a socially acceptable, rationalized reason to 'get help,' where there would not be any for a teenager saying "look, I'm getting into (insert socially deviant activity like heavy metal music here) to deal with my angst over my changing culture and my parents just don't understand me." Heck, kids HERE need these kinds of services but that's the problem with a fragmented/ing society and institutionalization of social services, or lack thereof. You get it where you can.
See the full story here>>


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