China's Ministry of Health has banned physical punishment or surgery at the nation's controversial “internet addiction” boot camps.
Under new guidelines for the approximately 300 clinics that have sprung up to treat heavy internet users, only psychiatrists, and not parents or camp administrators, would be authorized to diagnose “internet addiction”, SCMP.com said.
“Parents and teachers must analyze the causes and not arbitrarily condemn, hit or scold youths... intervention methods that restrict personal freedom are strictly forbidden and corporal punishment (is) strictly forbidden,” the ministry said in a posting on its website.
The ministry banned electroshock treatment in July following the death of a 15-year-old boy in a camp in Guangxi, and injuries to dozens of others.
Its announcement marks a change in approach by the ministry, which had previously defined as an internet addict anybody who stayed online for more than six hours a day for a sustained period.
An estimated 60% of China's 338 million internet users are adolescents, with some surveys suggesting that up to 10% of these fall under the Ministry's previous classification of an internet addict.
The proposed guidelines also point out that the goal of any treatment should not be to wean youngsters off the internet entirely, as it plays a vital role in modern society.