China Gets Serious About Diagnosing Online Game Addiction. I Am Not Making This Up.

February 19, 2013

Okay, so I’ve done my part over the years making fun of anyone who thinks Internet/online game addiction is a real disease that deserves diagnostic criteria, special facilities, trained health care professionals, etc. Regardless, there is a constituency here in China who takes this very seriously, probably the same folks who think that if a child sees naked breasts online, he will end up with permanent brain damage and sexual dysfunction. Heaven forfend that anyone in China will be exposed to sexuality before the age of 25!

Anyway, I kind of thought that after the online game industry came into its own a few years ago, parents and government officials would learn to deal with it, let the kiddies play games, and live with the consequences.

Apparently I was wrong:

China’s online gaming industry took in revenue worth 24.84 billion yuan (4 billion US dollars) in the first half of 2012. However, minors’ addiction to online gaming has caused serious social problems, which sometimes lead to juvenile crimes, according to an anonymous official with the Ministry of Culture.

Anonymous official — nice. You’d think if these social problems and juvenile crimes were rampant, Xinhua might have been able to get someone on the record, eh? On the other hand, if this is all bullshit, then the sourcing makes more sense.

You gotta love these fantasy social problems. All one has to do is find one or two anecdotes (e.g., kid somewhere plays games for 72 hours straight and drops dead of dehydration) of kids behaving badly, then cleverly suggest that this sort of thing is endemic in modern Chinese society. If you’re already predisposed to thinking that kids these days are worthless and lazy, you’ll probably buy into the whole thing.

And then of course, once conventional wisdom says that there is such a thing as online game addiction, and folks start profiting from the “cure,” there’s no stopping any of it. This includes the health care establishment, which then has to make sure that diagnosis and treatment are being done properly. No, I’m serious.

China’s culture and Internet authorities have decided to develop China-specific criteria for diagnosing minors’ addiction to online gaming.

If cases are assessed based on imported criteria developed for groups with different cultural and social backgrounds, it could result in misdiagnosis, according to a special workplan jointly issued by 15 ministry-level authorities on Sunday.

The plan calls on researchers to develop tools to identify the early stages of potential addiction, so as to enable early intervention for minors.

Starting to understand how this stuff gains momentum? I’d be laughing my ass off if I wasn’t so worried about the poor kids who are going to be subjected to online game addiction “treatment” under these new protocols. We’ve already heard about a few infamous cases of kids being thrown into institutions — some of these children have been seriously damaged on their way to a “cure.”

Apparently a sufficient number of professionals have bought into the whole online game addiction mythology that they can now push the idea that treatment must be localized for Chinese kids. In the absence of high-quality diagnostic tools, the danger is . . . wait for it . . . misdiagnosis!

The jokes write themselves. I just wish more people realized this isn’t a serious medical condition. Can’t parents just turn off their kids’ laptops and tell ‘em to finish their homework before getting back online? How difficult is that, anyway?

3 thoughts on “China Gets Serious About Diagnosing Online Game Addiction. I Am Not Making This Up.

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