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Israeli Filmmakers Examine the Chinese ‘Cure’ for Internet Addiction

It is still widely debated among psychologists whether or not Internet addiction is an actual psychological disorder that can be treated. China is the first country to list it as such.
Wang “Nicky” Yuchao, a Chinese 16-year-old, thought he was going skiing in Russia with his parents. Instead they brought him to one of some 400 rehabilitation clinics in China dedicated to treating Internet addiction disorder.

Wang spends his days confined to a repurposed army base in Daxing, just south of Beijing. The facility is stark, with cold gray hallways and metal bars in places. Treatment consists of a combination of army boot camp drills, therapy sessions, board games and antidepressants. And of course, he is given no access to Internet or gaming consoles.

Two Israeli filmmakers, Shosh Shlam and Hilla Medalia, spent three months inside the rehab facility to chronicle how China treats addiction to what one therapist in the film calls “electronic heroin.” Their documentary, “Web Junkie,” premiering July 13 on PBS, follows Nicky — who had the habit of playing “World of Warcraft” some 10 hours a day — and two other patients throughout their months-long stints at the clinic in 2010.


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