Science, Tech & Environment

Internet addiction in South Korea

The 20 middle school aged kids banging on drums here don't sound talented, but this activity is supposed to help them break a bad habit of playing computer games. The boys came to this camp to learn how to play outdoors and make pottery, amongst other things. Here they're banned from using computers and get only 30 minutes a day to make phone calls. This plus one on one sessions of anger management and counseling has reduced the amount of time participants spend on computers when they go back home, as claimed by the youth organization that begun the camp. This counselor says most parents say the camp has changed their kids forever. The counselor says 14.4% of Korea's 9 million schoolchildren show signs of internet addiction, defined as spending four hours or more online each day. Symptoms including developing stiff wrists and hearing sounds from online games even when offline. The counselor believes that Korea's emphasis on being a leader in high tech industries coupled with changes to the family structure makes this condition so pervasive. South Korea may also be positioning itself to be at the forefront of treating online addiction. But some critics say this is a waste of taxpayers' money. This analyst says just because someone spends an excessive amounts of time online does not mean they're addicted. He says programs like the camp cannot adequately resolve the problems that might cause a person to go online compulsively. But this boy who just finished the camp says he plans on spending more time playing sports when he gets home.

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