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Last Updated: Tuesday, 5 August, 2003, 11:06 GMT 12:06 UK
Camp aims to beat web addiction

By Tristana Moore
BBC, Boltenhagen, northern Germany

An innovative new camp in Germany is trying to get children who spend too much time on the internet out of their bedrooms and into the sunshine.

Benjamin learns to spend lees time with his computer
The camp cuts kids' online time from up to six hours to 30 minutes
The camp - in the seaside town of Boltenhagen, northern Germany - is located on one of the most beautiful coastal strips on the Baltic Sea.

With its healthy fresh air and sunny climes it is perhaps the polar opposite of the average young internet addict's darkened bedroom.

Children at the camp are encouraged to spend as much time as possible outdoors and daily computer allowance is curtailed to 30 minutes.

My friends had no time for me, I think I was probably a computer addict
Moritz Moeller, 13
Many of the children who attend are self-confessed addicts who use the web and computer games for up to six hours a day to escape boredom.

Moritz Moeller, 13, said: "It was fun playing on the computer, because I was bored. My friends had no time for me, I think I was probably a computer addict."

The first camp of its kind in Germany aims to wean children like this off computers by showing them that things like reading and exercise can be fun too.

Parents' dilemma

Given that computer addiction is not officially recognised as a clinical disorder, it is a taboo subject for many parents, said Simone Trautsch, the camp psychologist:

"Many parents don't speak about this problem, they don't know what they can do as a mother or father to help them."

A teenage girl at the camp said: "My mum always told me to go out and do some sport but I much preferred to play on the computer. it was the only way of not getting bored."

I've learnt that there's far more to life than sitting in front of a computer all day long. It's important to exercise and look after your diet
Benjamin Saenger, 13
Supervisors take the children to the beach every day, where they swim and do aerobics before sitting down to a healthy lunch of salad.

Camp organisers say diet and exercise are key aspects of the camp's philosophy because children who sit in front of computers all day tend to eat badly and not move away from their seats often.

Benjamin Saenger, 13, weighs 123 kilos.

He loved to play car-racing computer games when he was at home. He said he became aware that he was putting on weight.

"I thought it was going to be terrible coming to a camp where there were no computers, nor any TV - only sport," he said.

"But I wanted to do something to make me feel better, and I do feel more self-confident now. I've learnt that there's far more to life than sitting in front of a computer all day long. It's important to exercise and look after your diet."

Children who attend the camp say they feel much happier by the end of it and many pledge to limit the amount of time they will spend on their computers once they return home.


SEE ALSO:
Thailand restricts online gamers
08 Jul 03  |  Asia-Pacific
How to survive the internet
26 Mar 02  |  Science/Nature



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