ZHENGZHOU, Feb. 11 (Xinhuanet) -- At the end of the week-long Chinese Lunar New Year holiday, a central China hospital treated a 16-year-old schoolgirl who had shown symptoms of mental disorder after staying hooked on the Internet around the clock for days.
When she was sent to the hospital, the girl was talking to herself all the time and calling out her virtual lover's name, oblivious to those around her, said Yu Haiting, vice president of the No. 8 People's Hospital in Zhengzhou, capital of the central Henan province.
The psychiatrist also received a 19-year-old boy who was suffering from delirium after five years of surfing the Internet five to six hours a day.
The boy's life was overshadowed by failing grades, as well as fears that an invisible pair of eyes in cyberspace were peeping athim and examining him all the time, said Yu.
"They were both suffering from the 'Internet syndrome'-- a condition that is endangering the mental health of Internet addicted youngsters," Yu acknowledged.
Yu said he receives one to two such young patients a week.
"Teenagers are more vulnerable to the syndrome because they're curious to explore the world, but are not mature enough to balancereal life and cyberspace," he said. "So some of them end up relying on the virtual world for all comfort and pleasure."
Experts say "Internet syndrome" sufferers normally lack self-discipline, have problems getting along with family and friends, or are trying to avoid facing failures and frustration in life.
"To start with, they turn to the virtual world for comfort and gradually become more reluctant to face life," said Yu. "Such addiction would in the long run cause insomnia, headaches and, in the worst cases, delusions or delirium and would undermine the patients' mental and physical health."
He went on to say that youngsters should stay online for no more than three hours a day. "More importantly, they should learn to take advantage of the Internet to broaden their knowledge and enhance contacts with the outside world, instead of isolating themselves from society."
Parents, on the other hand, should talk with their kids more often so as to divert their attention from the Internet and detectearly signs of their problems, he said.
He also called on Internet service providers to open psychological counseling websites for the netizens to openly discuss the issue and help addicts solve various problems.
China's mainland reported 79.5 million Internet users at the end of 2003. While the Internet has proven a valuable source of information and means of entertainment, its side effect has also rung alarm bells.
An Internet cafe fire that killed 25 people in Beijing's prestigious university district in 2002 came amid complaints that such businesses were menacing the safety and morals of young people. Subsequently, the Chinese government shut down 45 percent of nationwide Internet cafes in a six-month safety crackdown.
Prior to the crackdown, however, there were approximately 200,000 Internet cafes in China and only 90,000 of them were licensed.Many Internet cafes had no fire exits or other required safety facilities.
Though computers are affordable for many Chinese urban families,youngsters like to play computer games at Internet cafes, behind the backs of their parents.
At the end of 2003, Beijing issued newly revamped regulations forbidding Internet cafes to receive young people under the age of18 to better protect minors' safety on the Internet. The regulations also urge Internet service providers to keep minors away from information detrimental to their growth. Enditem