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China bans solitary confinement for web addicts

Health ministry acts after teenager's death

China has banned the use of physical punishment to treat internet addiction after reports of beatings and at least one death in recent months at clinics for the condition around the country.

Clinics are also banned from locking up subjects or otherwise limiting their physical freedom, the country's health ministry said in regulations posted on its website. Multiple subjects in China, including the 15-year-old boy who was later beaten and died, have reportedly been sent for solitary confinement at internet addiction clinics in recent months.

Internet obsession has been seen in China as a reason that students begin scoring bad grades or become distant from their parents. Boot-camp style clinics sometimes charging sky-high prices to cure the condition have sprouted up around the country in recent years.

But the health ministry regulations said internet addiction is not yet well-defined and that it should not be used as a label for harm caused by excessive internet use. The ministry also recently banned the use of shock treatment for internet addiction after accounts appeared online of the practice at a hospital in eastern Shangdong province. Staff at the notorious hospital tied down subjects and forced them to admit faults while receiving shocks for up to 30 minutes at a time, according to posts in online forums by people claiming to have received the treatment.

The new regulations from the ministry urged minors to limit their time online and avoid surfing the web to kill time. It also called for parents to cultivate relations with their children by spending time with them and to pay attention to what their children do online.

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