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China

Colors spent two weeks inside a Chinese military hospital for Internet addicts. Welcome to the lives of teens for whom the game is over.

The weapons in this real life war game are those employed by the Chinese government against the proliferation of teen Internet addiction. Its players are one hundred teenagers from across the country checked into a Beijing military hospital famous for its three-month treatment that costs around 30,000 yuan, ten times an average monthly income in China.

Almost all male, many of the patients do not talk, have a clinically diagnosed mental problem or are simply depressed. They tell of an encroaching addiction in which the computer gradually became their only friend, ending in 16-17 hour days that continued unabated for months. “When I first arrived here I felt stuck inside”, says Ya Zhichang, 13. “Seventy percent come out cured,” claims the hospital’s director Dr Tao Ran.

I have no dreams. I have no idea about my future or what I want to do. I’m here to understand what real life is like.
Shi Fanshuo, 14, China

Doctors believe more self-confidence is the cure and that the path to get there passes through a well-shaped body. Wake-up is at 6:20. Swimming and therapy sessions are popular, but the military trainings (some of which involve the teens standing motionless for twenty minutes) are a bitter medicine. “I am lucky that I was chosen to be interviewed,” says Chao. “You rescued me from the military drill!”