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Film shows how Chinese web junkies are treated

An Israeli documentary at Sundance goes inside a Chinese centre for internet addiction – where teens are treated against their will.

One professor in China sees himself as such a pioneer that he has allowed Israeli directors Shosh Shlam and Hilla Medalia to film inside his ‘deprogramming centre’. Set up in 2005, the first of its kind in the country, the facility is inside a military base and uses boot camp techniques on its patients.

China is one of the first countries in the world to label overuse of the internet a clinical condition. According to Medalia, the centre’s director Professor Tao Ran “feels as though the West should learn from his research” and so granted access despite the absence of official permission.

The new documentary, called Web Junkie, follows the progress of three teenagers and their parents over a three-month period as they pass through the centre. It’s not alone in tackling the dangers of modern technology: also showing at Sundance, The Internet’s Own Boy is a portrait of computer-programming prodigy Aaron Swartz, who was found dead from an apparent suicide last year. Meanwhile, Love Child documents the tragic story of a South Korean couple whose baby died of malnutrition because of their addiction to online gaming. Tom Brook reports.

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