Web Junkie

  • Review Date: July 29, 2014
  • Rated: NR
  • Genre: Documentary
  • Release Year: 2014
  • Running Time: 74 minutes

Common Sense Media says

Docu explores Internet addiction but lacks follow-through.
  • Review Date: July 29, 2014
  • Rated: NR
  • Genre: Documentary
  • Release Year: 2014
  • Running Time: 74 minutes

Age(i)

2
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17

Quality(i)

 

What parents need to know

Positive messages

Communication between parents and teens is important when it comes to fostering loving and healthy family relationships. Parents also have a responsibility to help their kids overcome Internet addiction instead of just relying on the psychiatrists and drillmasters at the rehabilitation center. When it comes to Internet use, moderation is key.

Positive role models

The health care professionals at the rehab center work with both the teenagers and their parents in an effort to help them understand how Internet addiction is affecting their relationships. Of the three boys that the documentary follows, Hope is the only one who acknowledges that online games are seductive and that he feels bad for escaping to the Internet cafe.

Violence

Plenty of scenes in which teens shout in frustration because they don't understand why they've been brought to the rehabilitation center. Clips of violent video games that are played at Internet cafes. One boy mentions that he tried to jump out of a building twice because he couldn't continue using the Internet. A father mentions that he used to beat his son and tried to stab him with a knife. One violent therapy session which sparks the son to shout, "Do you want to die?"

Sex

In a casual conversation, one boy mentions how he met a girl through an online game and that he continued to play because of her. The others then ask whether he "gave her his first time."

Language

Language includes variations of "s--t," "f--k," "stupid," "retard," and "dumb."

Consumerism

The boys mention playing World of Warcraft and other online games.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

People, including teens, are seen smoking in Internet cafes. Parents smoke at the end of their class with Professor Tao. Some of the teens smuggle in cigarettes after their escape. Professor Tao states that these teens behave like heroin addicts with their "electronic heroin." The boys also mention that some of them were drugged or tricked by their parents into getting admitted to the rehabilitation center.

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?

QUALITY
 

Although it often feels like it's moving at a slow pace and gets repetitive with multiple shots of apathetic teens reluctantly participating in drills, Web Junkie manages 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.

Families can talk 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?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:August 6, 2014
DVD release date:March 3, 2015
Directors:Hilla Medalia, Shosh Shlam
Studio:Dogwoof Global Sales
Genre:Documentary
Run time:74 minutes
MPAA rating:NR

This review of Web Junkie was written by

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