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A teenager in China has died after attending a “bootcamp” claiming to treat internet addiction, sparking calls to shut down the controversial centres.
The 18-year-old boy had been sent by his parents to the centre in Fuyang city after they became concerned about his internet usage.
But two days later he was rushed to hospital with multiple injuries and later died.
According to reports, the centre’s director and several members of staff have been detained in connection with his death.
The treatment centres are increasing in popularity in China and adopt military-style discipline and often harsh tactics to tackle addictions to internet or gaming.
This specific centre claimed to use both “psychological guidance and fitness training” to treat children.
The teen’s mother, only known as Ms Liu, told the Anhui Shangbao newspaper that she sent her son to the centre on August 3 because of a serious addiction that she and her husband were not able to help with.
But within 48 hours he was dead. The exact cause of his death is not yet known but doctors reported he had more than 20 external injuries and several internal ones.
Ms Liu described seeing her son’s body in the mortuary, saying: “My son’s body was completely covered with scars, from top to toe… When I sent my son to the centre he was still fine, how could he have died within 48 hours?”
The treatment has been widely condemned by critics.
Some centres – which can be both private and Government-run – used electroshock therapy and beat patients, the BBC reported.
Students who have attended the bootcamps, or “colleges”, claim they were forced to stand for hours on end, made to eat in front of the toilet bowl or prevented from sleeping.
Last year a teenager reportedly killed her mother who had sent her to a similar bootcamp, which sparked a debate about the responsibility of parents to educate their own children rather than seeking help from third parties.
Trent Bax of Ewha Womans University, who has researched Chinese internet addiction, said the centres use “emotive power advertising” which appeal to parents who want “a ‘quick fix’ solution to their child’s problems”.
He told the BBC parents may have a “‘traditional’ view of education that permits the use of violence to ‘straighten out’ a delinquent child”.
He said: “The parents are also acting in response to a very real fear that the only child’s successful future may never be realised because they refuse to stop gaming and start studying.”
The centre has been shut down as the investigation continues.
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