Cyber junkies can unplug at US retreat

Aug 21, 2009 by Glenn Chapman
Boys are pictured playing video games. The first US retreat for Internet addicts has opened its doors, welcoming a teenager that was captive to World of Warcraft online role-playing videogame.

The first US retreat for Internet addicts has opened its doors, welcoming a teenager that was captive to World of Warcraft online role-playing videogame.

The 19-year-old boy went from pursuing quests in Azeroth to bottle-feeding baby goats and building a chicken coop as part of a reStart Internet Addiction Recovery Program at a rural five acre spread in the state of Washington.

"We are a cold turkey place; no technology," reStart psychotherapist Hilarie Cash told AFP on Thursday.

"A gamer is not going to be allowed to game any time they are here because it is the gaming that is their drug of choice."

Cash and therapist Cosette Rae opened the Internet addiction retreat in July as a live-in center for re-connecting cyber junkies with the land of the living.

"We are not anti-technology," Cash said. "It is about helping people addicted to technology get through the withdrawal and help their brains get wired back to normal and connected to the world in a positive way."

Internet and addictions have been a growing problem during the past decade as technology became increasingly pervasive in people's lives, according to the psychotherapist.

"The problem is worsening," Cash said. "More kids are being raised from the earliest days with technology. If allowed to spend too much time there, their development is not balanced."

The reStart rehab program includes teaching skills such as starting conversations and reading .

Videogame addicts typically need to be reprogrammed to be conscientious about everyday tasks such as bathing, cooking, and household chores, according to reStart. They also need tutoring when it comes to dating.

"The typical gamer is somebody who has fallen way behind in social skills and lacks confidence," Cash said.

Videogames are designed to immerse players' in fantasy worlds and hold their attention with intermittent rewards such as new powers for characters and storyline revelations.

"Games are really designed to keep people hooked," Cash said. "Those that stay hooked are people really vulnerable for whom the world is painful or scary."

Computers and the Internet are also parent-sanctioned refuges for children eager to escape hard knocks that are usually part of growing up.

"Childhood can be difficult for anybody," Cash said. "You have lots of kids who are shy, or have miserable home lives, or low self-esteem or are struggling in school. These are all kids drawn to the safety of a screen."

Children that spend too much time in the company of computers or videogame consoles can grow into socially mal-adjusted adults, according to reStart.

The retreat has beds for six patients. A 45-day stay costs 14,500 dollars plus cash for daily expenses such as renting camping gear for wilderness adventures.

ReStart has a 12-step program, similar to those for alcohol or drug addicts, for recovering cyber junkies.

"The idea here is teaching people how to be moderate in their behavior and stay oriented to the real world," Cash said.

The center also treats Internet addicts as out-patients, with typical patients ranging from 18 to 28 years old with "extensive exposure to porn, but not much to sex."

The retreat's premier patient is being nudged back into running with the aim of reacquainting him with his body and the physical world.

He has discovered a love for animals and cares for a puppy, baby goats and chickens at the retreat.

"He is thriving, and his social skills are improving by leaps and bounds," Cash said of the retreat's first live-in patient. "He is finding himself very successful with the young women he encounters."

(c) 2009 AFP

Explore further: Study: Social media users shy away from opinions

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

US online videogame play on the rise: NPD Group

Mar 10, 2009

US online videogame play is on the rise as growing numbers of teenagers turn to the Internet for opponents and game software, according to an NPD Group report released on Tuesday.

Study Links Internet Addiction to Aggression in Teens

Feb 23, 2009

( -- Armed with the findings of a new study, Taiwanese researchers suggest parents and educators pay more attention to children’s online habits because Internet-addicted teens seem more prone to aggression. ...

Recommended for you

Study: Social media users shy away from opinions

22 hours ago

People on Facebook and Twitter say they are less likely to share their opinions on hot-button issues, even when they are offline, according to a surprising new survey by the Pew Research Center.

US warns shops to watch for customer data hacking

Aug 23, 2014

The US Department of Homeland Security on Friday warned businesses to watch for hackers targeting customer data with malicious computer code like that used against retail giant Target.

Fitbit to Schumer: We don't sell personal data

Aug 22, 2014

The maker of a popular line of wearable fitness-tracking devices says it has never sold personal data to advertisers, contrary to concerns raised by U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer.

Should you be worried about paid editors on Wikipedia?

Aug 22, 2014

Whether you trust it or ignore it, Wikipedia is one of the most popular websites in the world and accessed by millions of people every day. So would you trust it any more (or even less) if you knew people ...

Philippines makes arrests in online extortion ring

Aug 22, 2014

Philippine police have arrested eight suspected members of an online syndicate accused of blackmailing more than 1,000 Hong Kong and Singapore residents after luring them into exposing themselves in front of webcam, an official ...

User comments : 2

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

not rated yet Aug 21, 2009
The center also treats Internet addicts as out-patients, with typical patients ranging from 18 to 28 years old with "extensive exposure to porn, but not much to sex."

That sounds like most 18 - 28 year olds.
not rated yet Aug 22, 2009
Reason why some people spend a lot of time on the internet is because they have absolutely nothing to do. WoW isn't the only video game out there. And it isn't just PC games that we do here. We are not lost to the physical world. We are more just more connected to the world on the internet. Computers and internet are part of the real world. They are not fantasy.