A teenager has died in China after a brief stay at an internet addiction boot camp. The 18-year-old’s parents were told that their son had to be rushed to a hospital, where he later died, just two days after they dropped him off.
The unnamed teen’s mother Ms Liu told her local newspaper, Anhui Shangbao, that she and her husband felt unable to help with his increasingly serious internet addiction. “When I sent my son to the centre he was still fine, how could he have died within 48 hours?” She described her son’s body as “completely covered with scars, from top to toe”.
China was one of the first countries to make overuse of the internet a clinical addiction amid growing fears over the perceived overuse of the internet and gaming among the country’s youth. Consequently, it has since seen a troubling rise in military style camps that are run out of government hospitals, private centres and schools by unlicensed staff. The camps were investigated in Web Junkie, an American-Israeli documentary premiered at Sundance in 2013.
The introduction of such treatment centres has not been without controversy – there have already been a number of deaths in similar facilities and in 2016 a 16-year-old girl tied her mother up until she starved to death as an act of revenge after she was abused for four months in one of the camps.
Patients have claimed that they are regularly beaten for not following orders, have been intentionally sleep deprived, forced to do military drills and practical work, and were given electroshock therapy as a part of the programmes.
The exact cause of the teenager’s death is still unknown, however, the centre’s director and four teaching staff are currently being held by police while authorities continue their ongoing investigation.