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Internet cafes in need of proper controls

China Daily

The loss of two young lives once again ignites intense discussion on how to improve management of commercial cyber bars.

On March 31, three middle school students in Chongqing, after playing games in a cyber bar throughout the night, fell into a deep sleep on a railway track. They were so tired that even a roaring train did not awaken them.

Two of them, sadly, lost their lives under the wheels while the other one escaped by chance.

Their death sent shock waves across the country, fanning a loud public outcry for better controls over Internet cafes, which are held responsible for these deaths and other similar tragic happenings.

The tragedy indeed exposes serious loopholes in the current management mode.

The rapid development of the Internet has changed our lives greatly. It provides convenient and accessible information, broadens our vision and enriches our lives.

The Net, however, is proving a double-edged sword, especially for young people. Lack of self-control and a strong sense of curiosity make them easy prey for unhealthy content such as violence, pornography and gambling.

Without proper guidance, what the Internet brings to them is nothing but great harm and bad influences.

The two students in Chongqing may be an extreme case. But stories of students who get involved in online games and become truants are not rare in the media. Worse, some even slip into crime - influenced by violent images and pornographic contents in the Net.

Illegal cyber bars have long been targets of public criticism and resentments for their open policy on admission of young people. Appeals for tighter management and scrutiny are becoming increasingly strong.

The penetration rate of personal computers is still quite low in this country, especially in smaller cities and rural areas, so commercial cyber bars have become important sites for many to surf the net. A ballooning contingent of netizens and big profit margins have boosted the business and prompted cyber bars to mushroom.

Their management, however, is turning into a headache for the authorities.

Currently, some 10 government departments, covering culture, industry and commerce, public security, education and communications, are in charge of management of cyber bars. The duplication of administrative functions only results in chaos. In reality, no one is held responsible for the bad effects the cyber cafes may have.

The country has no lack of rules and regulations to govern cyber bars. In November 2001, the State Council issued management regulations on cyber bars, which explicitly forbids them from accepting customers under 18 years old or operating throughout the night.

Such provisions, unfortunately, are not being enforced as well as they might.

The Chongqing case has started a new bout of campaigning nationwide to weed out illegal cyber bars and clean up their businesses. Such actions will surely be a great help in making cyber cafe operators clean up their acts a while, but how long will the campaign last?

Swift and tough action is a necessity for serious violations. An efficient, long-term management and supervision mechanism, however, provides a guarantee for an orderly business.

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