Akifumi Sekine, Japan’s ministry of education, wants kids to get “out of the virtual world” and “have real communication with other children and adults.” He’s proposing a fasting camp that will limit internet access while offering social outdoor activities at Japan’s numerous public facilities. Psychiatrists and clinical psychotherapists will be on hand to assist should difficulties arise with the transition from virtual to real-world life.
The ministry believes these camps could help about 500,000 Japanese children, ages 12-18, who suffer from internet addiction, though admittedly, it’s a hard number to calculate. Symptoms include eating and sleeping disorders, depression, deep vein thrombosis, and poor school performance.
Other psychologists doubt whether internet addiction really does exist. Sara Kiesler of Carnegie Mellon University thinks the label could be misleading:
It seems misleading to characterize behaviors as ‘addictions’ on the basis that people say they do too much of them.
No research has yet established that there is a disorder of Internet addiction that is separable from problems such as loneliness or problem gambling, or that a passion for using the Internet is long-lasting.
What do you think? Could you quit the internet voluntarily?