A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Web Junkie is an Israeli-produced, Mandarin-language documentary with English subtitles that follows three boys named Hope, Nicky, and Hacker who are sent to a rehabilitation center in Beijing for their Internet addiction. The patients participate in group therapy sessions that include their parents, who reveal how destructive their kids' habits have become. One therapy session includes a father mentioning that he used to beat his son and almost results in a fight, with the son shouting "Do you want to die?" Teens also shout in frustration and ask to smash a window after being told they can't come home yet. One boy mentions that he tried to jump out of a window because his father wouldn't let him continue playing a game when he was about to beat a level. There's one conversation about sex which occurs after one teen reveals that he met a girl online, and the others ask whether he "gave her his first time." People, including teens, are seen smoking in Internet cafes while playing violent video games, and the boys later try to smuggle in cigarettes after escaping. They also use strong language, including variations of "s--t", "f--k," "stupid," "retard," and "dumb."
What's the story?
China is the first nation to classify Internet addiction as a clinical disorder and define addicts as those who use the Internet for non work- or school-related activities for more than six hours a day. WEB JUNKIE, which premiered at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival, follows the journey of Hope, Nicky, and Hacker at the Daxing Boot Camp in Beijing, which uses military discipline, therapy sessions, and medication to treat its patients as they try to overcome their Internet addiction and mend broken relationships with their parents. Professor Tao, the director of the rehabilitation center, states that Internet addicts behave the same as heroin addicts, dubbing the Internet their "electronic heroin."
Is it any good?
The film often feels like it's moving at a slow pace and gets repetitive with multiple shots of apathetic teens reluctantly participating in drills. But Web Junkie does manage to capture how essential communication is to fostering relationships with others. While the boys brag about the various destructive habits they've engaged in -- like playing World of Warcraft for 300 hours straight or spending more than $8,500 on a game -- one parent thoughtfully states, "As parents, we fail to make friends with our own child," acknowledging that they may be partly responsible for why their kids return to the Internet day after day.
Some of the film's most tragic moments occur during the group therapy sessions, in which parents reveal how heartbroken they are to have lost their sons to virtual reality, and the boys mention that their parents care about them. Web Junkie doesn't answer what happens to these teens after they leave the rehabilitation center, but hopefully the time they spend there creates the opportunity for honest, open communication.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Internet and gaming addiction. Why do you think these teens feel that reality is too fake? Why is it important to practice moderation?
Do you think it's OK that the parents resorted to drugging/tricking their teens to get them to the rehabilitation center? Can people be helped if they're not ready to admit they have a problem?
One parent states, "As parents, we fail to make friends with our own child." Why is communication so important between parents and kids when it comes to the Internet? Has technology weakened communication? How can it be used to strengthen communication?
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