Web Junkie

PBS Premiere: July 13, 2015Check the broadcast schedule »

Film Update

In July 2015, POV asked Web Junkie filmmakers Shosh Shlam and Hilla Medalia what's happened since the cameras stopped rolling.

What's happened with the three teens - Nicky, Hacker and Hope? Looking back, how do they reflect on their experiences in Daxing? How have their lives changed since?

The boys have had varying levels of success since their treatment.

Hope, who leaves Daxing at the end of the film, later moved to the U.S. to live with his mother his parents got divorced. Hacker is now studying in a college in Beijing.

When we last see Nicky in the film, he says, he doesn't think that internet addiction is a real disease, but a social phenomenon. Since the film, Shlam says that he hasn't found his way. His computer is locked in his parent's bedroom and his father controls the hours he can use it. He is currently working in a hotel. When he talks about Daxing, he says he hated it — He hated Professor Tao Ran, and thinks he didn't have a problem.

At an event at The New York Times in July 2015, Shlam said that Professor Tao Ran claims a 70% success rate for his treatment, but that they couldn't confirm the accuracy of that number.

Has China's approach to diagnosing or treating Internet addiction changed since the end of filming?

China has not changed their approach to treatment — they still think it's an addiction. However, Daxing Boot Camp closed after the film premiered at Sundance. On the center's website, the program said that the West is blaming them for human rights violations. (Note: Many articles about Web Junkie and methods of treatment at Daxing Boot Camp appeared in the Western media in 2014, including New Yorker, The Telegraph and The New York Times.)

Professor Tao Ran has since opened a new treatment center since Daxing's closing.

Are there treatment facilities and programs in the U.S. like Daxing Boot Camp that use China's methods as a model?

There are internet addiction treatment facilities in the U.S., though their treatment methods differ. In an interview on WNYC's Brian Lehrer Show, the filmmakers said that they visited ReSTART, a treatment center in Seattle, Washington, and described the program there as very different from what they saw in China. ReSTART tries to create a homey, comforting environment, and teaches its young patients moderation.

Has been Web Junkie been screened in China? How have audiences around the world reacted to the film?

The filmmakers made an agreement with Professor Tao Ran, the director of the Daxing Boot Camp, not to show the film in China. At screenings around the world, audiences have seen China as a mirror to look at the problem of internet overuse in their own societies.