Logging out of an Internet addiction
Updated: 2013-12-13 08:06
By Yang Yang (China Daily)
Seventy 'problem teenagers' receive special treatment at Beijing Qide Education Center, where they hope to find a cure for their addiction to the Internet. Photos by Zou Hong / China Daily
Poor self image
Beijing Qide Education Center, a 60-minute drive from the capital's downtown, is home to 70 "problem teenagers" from a number of provinces. Their bad behavior had prompted their parents to take desperate action. Roughly 70 percent of them use the Internet excessively.
Liu Ran, from the Inner Mongolia autonomous region, looks like a typical Chinese school kid. A conspicuous green hairpin holds her fringe in place, exposing her forehead, but she wears the rest of her hair in a high ponytail.
But, whenever she thinks people are looking at her, she tries to cover her forehead and eyes with her hand, even though the teachers keep telling her not to.
"I think I am too ugly to let people see my face. Before I came here, my fringe hid my eyes completely. Whenever I walked toward a group of people, I thought they were staring and laughing at me, and disliked me. I wished I could dig a hole in the ground and hide," she said.
Liu is one of the most talented students at the center. She excels at painting and is extremely interested in learning to playing the piano. At one point, she sat down at the instrument in the center's music room and hesitantly picked out the beginning of Beethoven's Fur Elise.
"I can barely remember the score because I only studied it for a few days and it's really a long time since I touched the keys," she said, before turning to the music teacher and begging, "Please, Mr Gan, teach me how to play the piano, because it has been my dream since I was small."
Liu's mother, a teacher, sent her to the center because the 16-year-old often pretended to be sick and eventually stopped going to school altogether. She became addicted to an online racing game QQ Fly Car, and, over a period of 20 days, asked her parents for more than 4,000 yuan ($660) to spend on fancy clothes, accessories and makeup for her online avatar. Her excellent skills as an online racer and attractive online appearance soon won her many cyber admirers.
"They told me that I was beautiful and awesome and they loved me," she said, "I felt so satisfied and happy because I was being praised and loved. If my parents refused to give me money, I would fight with them."
The senior middle school student should be preparing for her high school entrance exam, but she stopped going to school because she had no friends there. Last semester, her mother transferred Liu to her own class so that she could supervise her studies more closely.
"If I napped in class, she just came by and slapped my head in front of the whole class, leaving me with no dignity at all. The only friend I had disowned me because she was worried the other kids would think she was pretending to be close to me to gain preferential treatment from my mother. Why would I stay at school when I had no friends there?" Liu asked.
Matters were made worse when Liu's mother insisted that she attended an after-school learning center at the weekends and during the holidays. The daily schedule covered all the major subjects featured in the high school exam: Chinese, mathematics, physics, English and chemistry. "It was suffocating," said Liu, "because of that, I had to give up piano."
Guo Xianghe, the psychological counselor at the Qide center, said many of the students simply lack familial love.
"In these cases, children look for comfort elsewhere. Online, they can be very popular, but in reality, they are lonely," she said. "More than 30 percent of the children here come from single-parent families. Their parents have either divorced or separated."
Tao said IAD in children is usually the result of two distinct types of family environment: parent-oriented, where the parents are very strict and demanding, or child-oriented, where spoiled offspring rule the roost.
"About 70 percent of the teenagers we receive have extremely assertive and aggressive parents - especially the mothers, who control everything about the child: clothing, food, study and friends. By contrast, the other 30 percent are spoiled by their parents and grandparents, who do not discipline them at all," he said.
The children of over-assertive parents lack self-confidence because they are constantly criticized, a situation that's made worse if they perform poorly at school. These kids are not the teachers' favorites and they tend to be withdrawn and uncommunicative because they despise themselves. That usually means that they have no friends and are therefore more susceptible to depression, he said.