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Teachers to Monitor Net Cafes

Shanghai government is changing the way it will approach the problem of young students spending too much of their time in Internet cafes playing video games, which local officials say leads to an increase in a variety of social problems.

More than 260 part-time inspectors will conduct regular spot checks on Internet cafes starting this month, local youth protection officials revealed yesterday.

The part-time inspectors, mostly elementary school teachers and neighborhood committee officials, will check Internet cafes for students once or twice every month after class.

Students found surfing the Web or playing PC games will be advised to leave the cafe. Their identity will be recorded and reported to school authorities if they refuse to take the advice.

But the inspectors have no right to punish any students or cafe bosses, officials said.

"We should rely on teachers to manage their own students and help to solve the social problem," said Huang Qiwei, an official with the Huangpu District Youth Protection Office, which set up the largest inspection team in the city.

Shanghai has more than 1,300 licensed Internet cafes, attracting hundreds of students, especially middle-school boys, submerging themselves in the Internet after class, or even staying in the bars overnight.

Internet addiction has become the biggest cause of juvenile delinquency, as youngsters tend to imitate crimes they have read about on seedy Websites or steal money to pay for their online habit, Huang said.

Last month, a group of secondary school students, aged between 13 and 15, were charged with robbing 13 victims of cash and property valued at about 15,000 yuan (US$1,807) in the city.

All the minors confessed to being computer game addicts and said they often stayed to play games in the net cafes overnight.

The State Council, China's Cabinet, issued a regulation last November, ruling that people under 18 are not allowed to enter Internet cafes. Bars are also forbidden to open after midnight -- two rules that are often ignored.

Cafes found violating the rule will be fined up to 15,000 yuan. Serious violators can also lose their business licenses, according to Xiong Yuanyuan, an official with the Huangpu District Culture Supervision Team.

(Shanghai Daily March 24, 2004)

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