“Although the film is occasionally slow and might have been a bit better had it been trimmed here and there, the bottom line is that it is compelling and hard to stop watching.”
by Martin Hafer
I watch a lot of Chinese films, but it’s the first documentary about the country’s online problems I’ve seen. I was also surprised just how much I enjoyed watching–especially since I really expected to hate it. After all, when I read that it was about internet addiction in-patient programs, I thought this was utterly ridiculous. I just couldn’t see the internet as being comparable to alcohol or heroin. But, the film surprised me and I think many parents would benefit from watching it.
The film is set in a military bootcamp-style facility for teens 13-18 that also provides psychotherapy for the child as well as the family. What really surprised me, however, is that there are currently about 400 of them in China!! Apparently, economic success and opening up their culture has brought about some problems–and kids who drop out of school and spend practically all their time in internet cafes is on the rise. Each resident stays about 90 days and the film crew are allowed access to both the residents and staff–and even some of the family psychotherapy sessions.
As I said already, at first I thought this all was overblown. After all, it’s normal for teens to love the internet and putting them into an in-patient program sounds ridiculous–and I felt very uncomfortable when I saw them medicating these patients. However, my mind slowly changed as I watched Web Junkie. These kids almost all saw that they had no problem…even though some of them admitted to doing some pretty insane things in order to play online games.
Many said they catnapped here and there but would not leave the terminal for hours or even days at a time and one even talked about using adult diapers so that he didn’t need to leave Warcraft! Plus, with all the families you see in the film, the kids’ relationships with their parents are practically nonexistent…which was also true with how they interact with everyone else around them. Many of them were incredibly loud, angry and violent when they found themselves in the program–much like you’d expect from someone coming off drugs! But to me the ultimate example of the problem was when a group of the kids escaped. They were easily caught, however, as they were all down the road in the nearest internet cafe!
Although the film is occasionally slow and might have been a bit better had it been trimmed here and there, the bottom line is that it is compelling and hard to stop watching. Because of this, and because the film simply allows the participants to talk without invasive narration, it’s well worth your time.