According to a study by the Ministry of Health Labor and Welfare, 518,000 teenagers are “strongly addicted” to the internet. In the eyes of the ministry, such a level of addiction can lead to irregular sleep patterns and unhealthy eating habits.

However, in an age where online access can be found everywhere, an addiction to the net can be one of the hardest to kick. So the Japanese government, in what it calls “an urgent need for action,” is looking into the effectiveness of “net fasting” which, as the name suggests, is an extended break from any online activity.

Starting next fiscal year, several net fasting camps will be set up for children from elementary to high school on a voluntary basis. Currently existing government-run Shonen Shizen No Ie (Youth Nature Schools) will be used to accommodate net fasters as they are encouraged to enjoy a world of sports and sunlight over Twitter feeds and friend requests.

Next year’s net fasting camps are to be used as a trial run so that researchers can observe the children’s behavior and responsiveness to the withdrawal. The concept of net fasting began in South Korea where it has gained notoriety in the past few years.

Japan has decided to look into the burgeoning internet rehab program after the Ministry’s bleak findings. They reveal that net addiction awareness is severely low due to a lack of treatment available at most medical institutions. As a result any action to curb net dependence has been delayed.

In spite of these alarms, the government says it doesn’t want to keep children from the internet. They are continuing to work towards a 2019 goal of having all school children equipped with an information device. They are also looking to expand information technology related courses.

Reaction to the news on the internet was mixed but not as negative as one might expect. Opinions tended to range from “an ineffective waste of time” to “I think it’s absolutely good.” Some advised simply enlisting young net addicts to the Self-Defense Force. Others called for an easy ban of net use for anyone under the age of 18, which another commenter asked to be extended to PS3’s as well.

Personally I think PS3’s could be used like methadone for net addicts. Let them do all the surfing they want as long as they can only use the PS3 controller. Then see how much they enjoy it. Better yet, just steadily downgrade their connections. By the time they get to an old 28.8k modem those kids will probably have joined the local football team in the sheer boredom of waiting for a single jpeg to load.

Source: Yomiuri via My Game News Flash (Japanese)