Chinese Youth Internet Addicts Become Cash Cow



On august 23rd, Famous CCTV Program “Economic Half-Hour” showed an episode called “Youth Internet Addicts Become Cash Cow” focused attentions on the a billion-yuan internet addiction treatment industry. The program pointed out that the lack of supervision causes many institutions to massively profit from parents anxiously finding cure for their kids’ addiction. Electric shocks, medication and violence were used and have already caused physical and mental harm to many Chinese youth.

Recently, the incident of a teenager internet addict was beaten to death in a treatment center of Guangxi province caught the attention of the public. While people are still debating about teenager internet addiction, there are over 300 institutions opened and offering treatment to internet addiction. Internet addiction treatment has become a billion yuan industry in China. At the same time all kinds of non-standard treatment methods were invented caused physical and mental harm to many of these children sent to the institutions.

On August 13th 2009, mother and daughter came to Central China Normal University quality of education expert Tao Hongkai’s home (陶宏开) (known as China’s first person who treats internet addiction). The daughter named Xiao Xue (小雪) is an internet addict. They have just escaped from Yang Yongxin‘s (杨永信) internet addiction treatment center in Linyi City‘s fourth people’s Hospital in Shandong Province. (I have talked about this guy Yongxin’s treatment model in an early post “Cure your Children’s Internet Addiction with Electric Shocks Aversion Therapy” in May this year) They came to Wuhan (city) all the way from Shandong (province) seeking for help. The reason of escaping was because of the scary electric shock therapy.

Xiao Xue “An electronic device has 2 rods one is placed on my temple, the other on my forehead.”

As the electric current increases, Xiao Xue felt the more and more intense unbearable pain.

The massive headache made Xiao Xue to struggle with all of her strength.

Xiao Xue: “I wanted to fight, but there were 7 people pinning me down, I could not move at all.”

Xiao Xue told the reporter during the 4 month treatment, she was electric shocked 12 times.

Reporter: “What effect did the electric shock therapy have on you?”

Xiao Xue “Fear.”

Xiao Xue also told the reporter, the electric shock therapy not only gave her fear, also changed her mental state as the electric current increased every time.

Xiao Xue: “I felt hatred, and more and more every time.”

Reporter: “Hatred? Who did you hate?”

Xiao Xue: “Hatred towards Yang Yongxin, then those therapists, and also my parents.”

Xiao Xue’s mother: “I am very sad, I feel really sad. Later I told my girl, Mom is really sorry.”

Tao Hongkai told the reporter in early days people who came to him for help were people just became addicted to internet. They were children without any internet addiction treatment history. But recently, those who came asking for help are those children who were harmed once again during the addiction treatment process. He felt worried and uneasy.

China Central Normal University quality of education expert Tao Hongkai said “It is worse for these kids, they already feel resistance. When just hearing about internet addiction treatment, they will resist. Many children have been hurt so many times will not believe their parents any more no matter what.”

Xiao Xue’s experience, we only have seen it in movies, it is a cruel punishment, and cannot be ignored. These experiences already left children with deep physical and psychological scars. Ministry of Health has also issued a notice to prohibit the use of electric shocks approach to treat internet addiction. But how did this cruel treatment method find its market the first place? Did this treatment method ever go through the relevant approval procedure?

Reporter came to the Fourth People’s Hospital of Linyi, Shandong province, internet addiction treatment center. Because of the method it used, treatment center was questioned by many people. Treatment center did not allow the reporter to go inside to film, and rejected the interview request. But a parent at the door told the reporter “Right now they use an acupuncture kind of equipment, the electric shock device is no longer used here.”

It is understood that the reason the electric shock therapy was stopped here is because of the recent prohibition of the relevant state departments. So what is it like to have electric shock treatment? “Economic Half-Hour” displayed a treatment room #13, in this room there is a small black bed, a chair and an oxygen tank. Just in this simple room, Xiao Xue had the fear she never experienced in her life before, a feeling of “rather be dead than alive”.

Xiao Xue: “I rather have a sudden death, than go through the treatment.”

Xiao Xue: “7 people pinned me down, stuffed a teeth-guard into my mouse, to prevent me from biting my tongue.”

Xiao Xue: “I thought to myself, no matter what I have to lie to them, so they won’t give me electric treatment anymore.”

Linyi People’s Hospital internet addiction treatment center founder Yang Yongxin told the media, using electric shocks causes pain but it is an effective means of treating addiction. He said “must allow producing uncomfortable experiences in order for the treatment to be effective.”

During the investigation reporter found that the center used a DX-2A type electric shock therapy device, it is designed for the treatment of manic psychosis. Some experts conducted study of the device and reported that, due to the severity of the treatment with this device, for some patients with weak heart and weak lung, suffering from liver and kidney disease, elderly and children and those with central nervous system diseases, we must use it with caution, otherwise there is risks of causing cognitive impairment. According to national authority certification, this DX-2A device is an illegal product.


Xiao Xue’s mother: “I think it is traumatic to a child’s mind.”

Xiao Xue told the reporter, she not only was afraid of the electric treatment, but also the physical punishment like 200 kneeling exercises daily. She feels the pain on her waist and back once she is done with them.

Xiao Xue: “It is very tiring, after 40, 50 I am already tired.”

In the end mother and daughter escaped from the hospital, leaving 4000 yuan behind in the hospital account.

This “rule” table in Linyi internet addiction treatment center, shows the 70 behaviors could result being electric shocked.20090825-cash-cow-08

1. Cursing

2. Attitude problem

3. Not being serious during exercise

4. Not being serious during meals

5. Hands not positioned tightly inline

6. Went out with normal clothes

7. Eat chocolate

8. Drink soft drink, tea, coffee

9. Not in a straight line when lining up

10. Change seating in class

11. Passing notes

12. Laughing during treatment

13. Listening to music without permission

14. Use computer, browse outside website without permission

15. Not showing building leader permission slip

16. Goes into Mr. Yang’s office without permission

17. Barge into meeting room during meeting

18. Going over security line

19. Go into storage room

20. Hang clothes between 7 am – 5 30 pm

21. Speak loudly, playing loudly

22. Not following rules on second floor

23. After lights out speaking loudly in restroom

24. Not changing bad habits

25. Creating forum

26. Giving bad attitude to parents

27. After warning, goes out with opposite sex (serious electric shocks)

28. Spreading rumor, misleading teammate (serious electric shocks)

29. Purposely not taking medication

30. Smoke, drink alcohol (serious electric shocks)

31. After warning, still forming small groups

32. Not admitting mistakes

33. Fighting with teammates

34. Acting emotional towards staffs, teammates, parents

35. Accident during an outing

36. Bad behavior by voting, or Mr. Yang

37. Purposely frame others

38. Not accepting during class

39. Not telling doctors things

40. Play games, use QQ (serious electric shocks)

41. Knowing but not telling

42. Lying

43. Using cell phone without permission

44. Try to gain votes during voting

45. Touch other teammates’ computer

46. Taking medication on empty stomach

47. Touch parents id cards, other cards

48. Writing diary during class

49. Sit in Mr. Yang’s seat

50. Hiding paper, diary and notebook

51. Touch sharp object or money

52. Browsing work book

53. Not listening to leaders during emergency

54. Not executing

55. Being too close to classmate

56. Speaking without thinking

57. Self-destructing

58. Not knowledgeable

59. Not at ease in hospital

60. Disrespecting teammates and parents

61. Trying to run away

62. Being moody

63. Being self-forgiving

64. Being vengeful

65. Disrupting staff members’ rest

66. Too much reasoning

67. Not forgetting the past

68. Bribing

69. Telling parents wanting to go home

70. Not understanding paring

“Internet addiction treatment institutions not only use electric shocks, also force patients to take medication and even use violence to harm children again and again.” “Economic Half-Hour” reports, even some drug rehab also jump on the bandwagon accepting youth with internet addiction. Wang XiaoYang’s parents sent him to a drug rehab using medication to treat his internet addiction in Ningbo.

Compare to electric treatment, getting shots and taking medicine seems to be much more relaxed, however according to Wang Xiaoyang, he attempted suicide twice because he could not stand the treatment.

“Six security guards and one nurse pinned me onto a bed and forced to give me a shot. I passed out immediately, when I woke up it has already been 2 days.” “I could not control my sleeping schedule any more and developed urinary incontinence. Nurses frequently changed my cloth, but not giving me any food. After a while of these shots, I could not sleep unless after taking sleeping pills.”

Wang Xiaoyang: “I subconsciously feel that some things you asked me to do, I will do them but I will take revenge on you. Because I feel my mom is taking revenge on the things I did, I will think of ways to take revenge on her.”

Reporter learned currently there are 300 various types of internet addiction treatment agencies. Some uses electric shocks, medication and physical punishments caused children to be harmed for the second time. Let’s take a look the following incidents. In 2007, a 14 year old boy from Beijing could not stand Chongqing Great Eastern School’s long term physical abuse, jumped out of a building, committed suicide. August 1st 2008 Xiniiang youth center a problem youth died during a physical training. August 2nd 2009, a 15 year old boy just sent to an internet addition training camp in Nanjing was beaten to death the next day.

Tao Hongkai said “this is a tragic social phenomenon. The only result of this so-called internet addiction treatment is hurting the children again.”

Secretary General of the China Youth Association for Network Development Hao Xianghong (郝向宏) said “Because there are no corresponding standards and some agencies also do not have R & D capabilities, therefore many treatment methods were invented, and the effectiveness of these treatments are difficult to measure. In the process there have been some tragic and serious incidents.”

In fact, in recent years internet addiction and its treatment have been highly controversial in the theoretical circle. Some treat internet addiction as harmful as drug addiction, but some experts believe that the causes of internet addiction are complicated, in most cases it is just mental addiction, which is not a big deal. Even the basic judgment on internet addiction remains divided, the opinion on treatments for internet addiction is even more different. How to diagnose? How to give treatment accordingly? Who is qualified to treat internet addicts? While experts argued, parents were helpless and some institutions and individuals seized this opportunity to greatly profit leveraging this chaotic situation.

These internet addiction treatment centers use the name of schools, hospitals and even some welfare organizations. They are really not medical nor educational institutions. Because of their identities being ambiguous they become this gray area as if no one can control them. Using violence and forceful methods to “treat” children causing more harm is not a concern for them as long as it is profitable. They take advantage of the helpless parents desperately wanting the best for their kids, even purposely put the children in worse situation so they can gain even more profit.

Now it seems that the debate over the existence of internet addiction is no longer the focus. The focus should be to rigorously regulate these treatment centers. Are they qualified to treat addictions? What kind of “experts are they? What responsibility do they hold for destroying young people’s lives? Departments concerned must supervise and regulate and come up with means to prevent more tragedies from happening.

Society should give helping hand and love to the small number of children who are addicted to internet. However, these treatment actions should be based on scientific and standardized basis, rather let the business organizations treat them with electric rods and needles. Save the children is a social obligation, not an excuse for making money.



  1. This reminds me of that scene in requiem for a dream. Creepy….They should put needles or knives on Mr. Yangs chair. There is no rule against that in the 70.

  2. Wow . . . didn’t the West try this kind of therapy like two three hundred years ago? EPIC FAILURE

  3. Good God, I’d get shocked three or four dozen times a day, minimum!

    Why not just give the kid a lobotomy?

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