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China cracks down on cybercafes – again

Concerns over mental health of teenagers this time

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China has launched yet another crackdown of Internet cafés, warning that they can affect the "mental health of teenagers" while spreading "unhealthy online information".

Authorities have ruled that Internet cafés are not to operate in residential areas or within 200 metres of primary and high schools.

According to Xinhuanet, unlicensed Net cafes allow youngsters to access the Net where they can gain access to "unhealthy" information.

In a statement China's market watchdog, the General Administration for Industry and Commerce (GAIC), said: "They have brought great harm to the mental health of teenagers and interfered with the school teaching, which has aroused strong reactions from the public."

For the next four months or so officials are to check all Internet cafés to ensure that youngsters aren't sneaking in.

"During the period, the government departments will take resolute, unyielding measures to enhance supervision over Internet café business and shut down those with no licenses. Any such place allowing juveniles to enter or allowing unhealthy information to spread through the Internet will face rigid, severe penalty," said the report.

Last month state news sources revealed that increasing numbers of teenagers in China are being admitted to hospital suffering from what doctors call "Internet Syndrome".

Symptoms include delirium, paranoia and psychosis as young people, having difficulties with social interaction in the real world, turn to the Net to avoid conflict with friends and family.

This isn't the first time China has targeted Internet cafés. In 2001, it shut down around 20,000 cyber cafés, suspended 6,000 and installed monitoring software in a further 28,000. ®

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