On a chilly morning recently, Lu Liandi took his wife and 13-year-old boy Lu Jiaxing to the multimedia hall of the University of International Business and Economics in Beijing, where Kelsang Tsering, a well-known Tibetan psychologist from Sichuan Province, gave a lecture on Internet addiction.
The despairing couple felt hopeful after hearing Kelsang Tsering's three-hour-long, passionate speech.
At the afternoon face-to-face consultation, Lu could not wait any more and stood up first to pour out his repeated setbacks when educating his child.
Lu Jiaxing was once an excellent middle school student, the father recalled. However, during the SARS outbreak in the spring of 2003, when the schools were closed, young Lu had ample time to spend on online games. He became hooked. When the school reopened, he neglected his studies to spend more time online.
His academic scores were in free-fall. Gradually, he learnt to negotiate with his parents to exchange his homework hours for game time. He would demand an hour for game playing if his parents urged him to go over his newly learnt English vocabularies.
"The Internet has really damaged our family relations. We have tried every means to pull our child out of the virtual world, but it only turned out to be repeated conflicts," the father said.
The introvert boy seemed to have no interest in hearing his father's complaints and fiddled with a cell phone.
"He had just downloaded a new game in my cell phone," elderly Lu said.
Kelsang Tsering said that the boy was already hooked and it was the subconsciousness that drove him to play.
"Communication skills with the children are very important. The parents should win the emotional resonance for their opening words," said Kelsang Tsering.
During the lecture, Kelsang Tsering organized a role playing game.
He asked all the participants to step into the shoes of Bian Lizeng, a father of a student in Beijing to help Bian deal with the family conflict. The conflict arose when Bian's son, a high school student, recently announced he would quit regular school and study in a vocational school for its Internet training program.
However, after a round of conversations, Bian did not feel convinced or comfortable at all with the words of the other participants, because they had just behaved the same way as he had done before with his own son.
"Some preached, some threatened, and some negotiated, but none of them really struck a chord with the child," commented Kelsang Tsering.
Through the role-playing, both Lu and Bian understood that the key to communicate effectively with their children was thinking more as a child and expelling their initial mental resistance.
Though engaged in the Internet addicts research for just more than one year, Kelsang Tsering claimed that he had worked out his own way to turn some 50 teenagers from Chengdu around.
During treatment, he tried to apply hypnotism, drawing wisdom from Tibetan tradition.
He explained that Internet addiction itself is an uncontrollable subconscious behavior, and his special hypnotism could help create a state of subconscious communication with the patients.
"Hypnotism is a psychological therapy commonly practiced in the world but does not carry any mysterious effects itself. I emphasize more on the rhymes of my speech and make the patients feel comfortable," he said.
Besides the psychological consultation, Kelsang Tsering also gave particular emphasis on straightening out the family relations.
He said that for most cases of his treatment, an inharmonious atmosphere in the family, such as divorce and family violence, had resulted in their children's addiction to the online world.
In a happy family, the parents' excessive care and lack of discipline might also weaken their child's self-control.
Sun Senlin, who took his whole family from Shunyi District in Beijing to listen to Kelsang Tsering's lecture, admitted that he had tried to cater to every single need of his only child in the past, but now only found that his son became increasingly rebellious against him after he fell into the virtual world of games.
After Sun locked the computer in a cabinet to limit his son's excessive craze for games, the son often left home for days and stayed in Internet bars.
"A healthy family environment favorable for the children developing into adults contributes significantly to their immunity from the huge Internet temptation," said Kelsang.
What's more, the present examination-oriented education routine forces the parents to place more pressure upon their children.
"They commonly believe that their children could make a living only after they graduate from the colleges. So they urge and urge, but never consider the children's feeling," said Kelsang Tsering.
The Internet perfectly meets the young people's need to express themselves and escape from the pressure both from the family and school.
Kelsang advocates diverting education emphasis to enhancing students' quality so they are able to fulfill their dreams during the learning process instead of viewing it as a burden.
"One of the ultimate goals in my lecture is trying to educate the parents to help their children to foster their dreams and beliefs," said Kelsang.
A year ago, a junior college student chose to leave school because he could not accomplish the required school course credits as a result of Internet addiction.
For times, Kelsang Tsering tried to talk with him and identified his mental problems.
But Kelsang Tsering admitted that he did not realize how deeply the student had been addicted to online novels.
"So I failed. Later when I got to know the facts from his classmates, I felt really regretful. If I had known it at an earlier time, I believe I could have helped," said Kelsang Tsering.
After the incident, Kelsang Tsering started to realize what a significant harm the Internet was inflicting on young people. He decided to work to bring the young people out of the virtual world.
Kelsang Tsering organized a group of experienced psychologists in Chengdu, capital of Southwest China's Sichuan Province, to specially provide a consultation service for troubled children.
Building a training center is now in his mind. Most of the young addicts are in fact escaping the real world and hiding themselves on the Internet to experience the happiness of success and the feeling of glory.
"I want to group them in a team and make them feel a sense of achievement during the process of teamwork," said Kelsang Tsering. "That will help them recover their confidence to go back to the real world."
(China Daily January 7, 2005)