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Japan Plans Internet Fasting Camps for Web-Addicted Youths

Teens can talk and play sports at the camps—but smartphones are strictly prohibited.

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By Bryan Le

11/29/13

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In order to save its over half a million web-addicted youths in Japan, the Japanese Ministry of Education is putting together government-sponsored Internet fasting camps.

“We estimate this affects around 518,000 children at middle and high schools across Japan,” said Akifumi Sekine, a representative at the ministry. “But that figure is rising and there could be far more cases, because we don't know about them all.” That number, according to a Nihon University study, means about 8.1% of Japanese school children admit to being addicted to the Internet. At these proposed camps, the Japanese government hopes to see kids playing outside and speaking to one another face to face so that they achieve "limbic resonance" - a feel-good rush in the brain that comes from interacting with others. “Verbal and non-verbal communication releases specific neuro-chemicals,” Hilarie Cash, co-CEO of internet addiction rehab reSTART, explained. “It's not a reaction that occurs when you're online. A lack of it can even hinder developing social skills.”

But some feel the camps only address symptoms, not problems. "Why are these young people turning to the internet? Why do they feel more comfortable talking to strangers on the Internet, instead of their classmates or family?" said Kaz Aoyama, a Japanese student. "I feel like there are more important issues to tackle for these middle and high schoolers, like bullying at school and on the web. Taking away the Internet won't put an end to it."

Japan is not the only country struggling to understand online addiction; Internet addiction boot camps have also sprung up in China and South Korea. 

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