The Japanese government is envisioning an “all play and no work” environment for the youth, a generation reared into a culture of Internet and habituated in the safety of their smartphones and laptops.
With more than 500,000 Japanese children at middle and high schools believed addicted to the Internet, the education ministry has proposed setting up “fasting” camps to tackle the ever-growing problem.
Some experts believe Internet addiction is a “pathological” affliction, causing children to lose sleep or skip meals in the most serious cases.
“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,” Akumi Sekine, a representative of the Ministry of Education.
The figure is based on a study by Nihon University released in August which revealed that 8.1% of 100 Japanese school children surveyed were addicted to the Internet.
The program will encourage children to engage in outdoor activities and interact with others without the help of social media.
“Verbal and non-verbal communication releases specific neuro-chemicals,” Hilarie Cash, Ph.D, cofounder of Internet addiction recover center reSTART, said.
“It’s not a reaction that occurs when you’re online. A lack of it can even hinder developing social skills.”
While Internet addiction is a global issue, the problem is more complex in Japan where technological advancement and traditional customs run parallel.
Unlike their Western counterparts who take on other web personas, the Japanese are more reserved about their online presence. They instead devote their time on online gaming, with some Japanese netizens spending over tens of thousands of yen on gaming subscriptions, totaling over $5.1 billion on mobile gaming alone in 2012.
There are other factors that contribute to Internet addiction, such as the causal aspect of society itself. People who experience disruptions in their life may resort to withdrawing from society and occupy themselves with the web.
“Why are these young people turning to the Internet? Why do they feel more comfortable talking to strangers on the Internet, instead of their classmates or family?” Japanese international economic student Kaz Aoyama told Mashable.
“I feel like there are more important issues… like bullying at school and on the web. Taking away the Internet won’t put an end to it.”
By Maesie Bertumen
Image: Marc Sardon/Flickr