Can a Beijing bootcamp cure teenage internet addicts?

China has 300 million internet users and many young people are hooked to the technology. Worried parents are sending their addicted teens to a Beijing army base, where they undergo an extreme digital detox.

Student Wei Zhen used to play lengthy gaming sessions online.

It wasn’t the games I was addicted to, it was being online. I feel free there; free to do anything I wanted.

For many young people internet addiction is a symptom of deeper problems in their lives. China's rapidly changing society is creating new pressures on teenagers and many go online to escape. 

The bootcamp is a very Chinese version of tough love. It forces participants to go cold turkey and face the reality of their lives. The programme  offers military style discipline and is a mixture of drills, sport, therapy and lectures. Parents must attend for several weeks as they are considered to be part of the problem.

Colonel Tao Ran of the Beijing Military Hospital Addiction Branch says

Because China has such a huge population the pressure to get a good job is incredible. Parents push children too hard to compete so they try to escape into the virtual world.

Student Guo Gi will go back online when he leaves the camp,

It’s the information age, so I will have to use the internet, but I have to get control over how I use it.

An RTÉ News report broadcast on 16 March 2009. The reporter is Margaret Ward.