The growing problem of juvenile Internet addiction has prompted 63 parents to back a joint lawsuit against Web game companies.
The extreme behavior of addicts, causing parents to dub Internet games "e-heroin," has become an increasing cause for concern.
Yesterday, China Central Television reported that a senior high school student in Hunan Province had cut off his little finger to show his determination to kick his Web addiction.
In December 2004, 13-year-old Zhang Xiaoyi killed himself by jumping off a 24-story building in the northern city of Tianjin. Some blamed the suicide on Internet addiction.
Statistics show that 15 percent of the country's youngsters, more than 2.44 million people, are addicted to Internet games.
Experts have said inadequate regulations are responsible for a variety of social problems, juvenile delinquency and the promotion of brutality and perversion among minors by online violence and pornography.
Zhang Chunliang, a cyber addiction expert, plans to launch a collective lawsuit towards the Internet games industry, Xinhua news agency reported yesterday.
Zhang, who leads a movement to rescue cyber-addicted youngsters, said he had the backing of 63 parents in more than 20 families.
Zhang said his action is aimed at raising public awareness as well as reminding authorities to put in place "corresponding rules to regulate Internet games."
"A child's addiction to Internet games means the ruin of a whole family," said Zhang, attending a forum in Chengdu, capital of Sichuan Province, at the weekend.
There is no difference between being addicted to drugs and being addicted to Internet games, said Zhang.
"Indulging in a virtual cyber world causes players to mix the virtual world with the real world."
After visiting more than 260 Internet cafes, Zhang collected more than 700 cases of Internet-related injury, suicide and fatigue among youngsters.
According to research, 5-10 percent of Internet users in China are prone to cyber addiction. Among youngsters that figure is 7 per cent.
On average, youngsters spend almost nine hours on the Internet each week, sometimes exceeding 21 hours during the holidays. According to the China National Internet Information Centre, China has 103 million registered Internet users, 71 percent of whom are teenagers.
Meanwhile, experts say so-called "Internet addiction disorder" is not yet officially recognized.
In August, to clean up the Internet, the Chinese Ministry of Culture published 15 online games suitable for minors.
(China Daily November 22, 2005)