In response to rising numbers of young people who are “pathologically addicted” to the internet, Japan is opening up so-called “internet fasting camps” to wean youths off the web. According to a report in Vice.com, researchers at Japan’s Nihon University estimate that about 8.1 percent of the country’s students are addicted to the internet, meaning that more than half-a-million kids between the ages of 12-and-18 in the nation as a whole suffer from this affliction.
Such a condition leads to various psychological problems, including insomnia, eating disorders, poor academic performance, depression, and even deep vein thrombosis – the formation of blood clots arising for spending lengthy amounts of time in the same posture. A government study found that up to 15 percent of Japanese students spend as much as five hours online everyday and even more time on the internet on weekends. As a result, the Tokyo government’s education ministry will introduce “web fasting camps” to help young people disconnect from their PCs, laptops, mobile phones and hand-held devices.
"It's becoming more and more of a problem," Akifumi Sekine, a spokesman for the education ministry, told the Daily Telegraph newspaper of Britain. "We estimate this affects around 518,000 children at middle and high schools across Japan, but that figure is rising and there could be far more cases because we don't know about them all." He added: "We want to get them out of the virtual world and to encourage them to have real communication with other children and adults.” Vice noted that like other addicts, youths forcibly removed from their beloved mobile devices may suffer withdrawal symptoms, i.e., “cold turkey.”
In the United States and China, countries with massive online usage and penetration, youths are also at risk for addiction. Some Chinese youths have taken drastic measures when their access to the web was threatened – one child poisoned his parents for banning him from the internet, while another tried to kill himself in protest. China has already established such “camps,” but these have been authoritarian and even brutal institutions. In Japan, officials are apparently taking a more humane approach to their web addicts, by encouraging kids to spend more time outside, playing sports and other healthy alternatives to the internet.
According to InternetWorldStats, Japan had about 101 million internet users as of June 2012 – more than doubling since 2000 -- and the fourth highest such total on the world, behind only China, U.S. and India. On a percentage basis, almost 80 percent of the Japanese population is logged on, one of the highest proportions in the world. The Japanese not only spend an excessive amount of time on the internet, but they are also deeply engaged with it as a communication vehicle.
It is estimated that more than 80 percent of Japan’s web users visit blogs and contribute to them -- again, one of the highest such figures in the world. “Blogs play a central role in Japan’s Internet culture,” said Daizo Nishitani, president of comScore Japan KK, a subsidiary of digital measurement company comScore Inc. (NASDAQ: SCOR). “Blogging has historically been a popular Internet activity, as the opportunity to interact anonymously appealed to many online users. Beyond the wide reach of the blog category in Japan, visitors are also highly engaged on these sites -- spending more time on blogs per month than any other country globally.” The average Japanese user spends more than an hour (62.6 minutes) on blogs in one session, way ahead of second place South Korea (49.6 minutes)
Palash has worked as a business journalist for 21 years in New York.