What the US can learn from China and Korea to treat Internet Addiction

China estimates it has over 20 million Internet addicts and became one of the first countries to declare the affliction a clinical disorder, prompting the World Health Organization to recognize Internet addiction. In the DSM-5, Internet Gaming Addiction is only recognized in Section 3 as a condition for further study.

In China, people who spend more than six hours online doing something other than work or study, and who feel bad when unable to access a computer. Gaming appears to be the most addictive Internet behavior. In my work with China, I see that Chinese parents take education very seriously and now they see many teenagers, especially young male students, start to lose interest in school and devote much of their time to Internet gaming.

China as well as Korea have been leaders in the treatment field. According to Professor Ko, head of the Master Plan for the Prevention and Treatment of Internet Addiction in Korea, they have over 500 hospitals addressing Internet addiction recovery and several specialized treatment centers devoted to serious cases. I met Professor Ko at a conference in Milan, and he said that Korea also does national prevention training in schools, a good idea for other countries to consider as children are going online at earlier ages. Developmentally, new research suggests that social and cognitive problems may emerge with too much technology use before the age of three.

In China, they focus more on camps for receiving treatment. Based on media reports, patients are required to participate in rigorous exercises, medication and therapy. Dr. Tao, head of the first clinic in Beijing explains that treatment provide a discipline that the patients need.

The issue of prevention and treatment seem to be lagging behind in the United States. In the educational system, there are no focused attempts at a local or national level to offer prevention classes to students or to train teachers on warning signs of childhood Internet addiction.

As we look ahead to the future, with technology being so integrated into our daily lives, we need to consider what steps we can take to prevent children and adolescents from becoming addicted to technology, be it to games, social media, or online gambling, we need to be concerned that these have the potential for addiction. If we learn from countries, we can take steps to prevent these problems before they occur.