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Research team defends Internet addiction


16:53, May 18, 2012

Peking University has responded to a furor over its attempts to compile a list of students addicted to the Internet, saying it was simply looking for candidates for a research project.

The university, one of the most prestigious in China, faced harsh criticism after reports emerged this week that student leaders were asked to submit the names of Web addicts.

Many people raised concerns that it was a veiled attempt by the university to investigate students with behavioral or psychological problems.

However, on Thursday, the research team, which is headed by education professor Ding Xiaohao, posted a notice on its official website that aimed to allay any fears.

"The project is part of an academic research project that will focus on the Web and teenage development, as well as the causes of Internet addiction," the notice said.

"The research team expects some instructors in departments to help recommend students who are willing to participate in the project."

Ding also told China Daily that the project is aimed at looking at the effects of the Web on youth development and helping students with Internet addictions.

"Those students who volunteer will be asked to attend some activities," she said.

The online notice explains that students will earn credits and receive professional guidance on time management, relationships and study.

Ding added that the research team had attempted to recruit students through their departments, and is now considering other ways, such as through student associations and volunteers.

On Tuesday, several media reported that student leaders had received e-mails asking them to provide a list of potential candidates.

The news soon became a popular topic of discussion online.

A Web user called Yu Lisheng wrote on an forum that such a move could harm some students mentally, and that it went against the scientific spirit.

There is no widely accepted definition of Internet addiction. Xu Yan, dean of Beijing Normal University's School of Psychology, told Xinhua News Agency in a recent interview that Internet addiction is an excessive reliance on the Web.

Addicts lose interest in real life and get whole satisfaction from the Internet. We treat it as a psychological disorder when we lose control and do harm to others, she said.


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