South Korea has internet
Addiction: Smartphone addiction is becoming a problem in South Korea
Hyomin Song is healed, she says. The 24-year-old political student has just got hold of the latest model from Samsung and regularly checks it to check everything: messages on four different social networks, text messages, her favorite websites, the newly downloaded games. Often she only checks briefly whether something has happened, although she should know that in that case the vibration alarm would have gone off. But she has now curbed her consumption after several unsuccessful attempts. "I've set myself rules. I only pick it up twice in ten minutes." And she wants to stop staring at the cell phone on the subway.
Nowhere in the world are smartphones as widespread as in South Korea. According to surveys by the market research company eMarket, 70 percent of the 49 million inhabitants already have a modern telephone. If you use the subway in the capital Seoul, you can hardly make eye contact in rush hour traffic despite the full trains. Pretty much everyone, at least the younger crowd, is staring at a small screen. Every now and then you can see passengers jumping up hastily from their seats and running to the door because they forgot to get out of the car because of the surfing and chatting. Seoul is often called the "best connected city in the world".
That was on purpose. When information technology was booming in the 1990s, South Korea pushed ahead and wanted to become the world's leading location for all related products and services. Fast Internet can be found everywhere in the capital today, and the electronics company Samsung has been bringing some of the best telephones onto the market for years. South Korea is known for its high quality technology and communication products and one of the world's largest exporters. The government's growth strategy has paid off.
But there is one thing that the architects of the Korean economic model did not consider: Because practically everyone today has a smartphone and has access to the Internet, addiction to these services is greater than anywhere else. Two years ago, the South Korean government estimated the number of Internet addicts at two Millions. Another government poll found that one fifth of teenagers are smartphone addicts. 80 percent of adolescents between the ages of 12 and 19 have such a phone, 40 percent of them spend more than three hours a day playing games, chatting or posting something on Facebook.
"Not Just a Phone"
In South Korea, mobile phone dependency is defined using several criteria: who has attacks of anxiety or depression when they are disconnected from their device, who repeatedly fails to use it less or who feels happier with their smartphone than with friends and family, who can be diagnosed with addiction.
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Hyomin Song, who does not want to give her real name because she could otherwise have problems looking for a job, expresses the phenomenon as follows: "The telephone is not just a telephone. It is your constant companion, it also has one on almost everything Answer." She knows the possible effects of being fanatical about herself. "When my parents tried to tell me in recent years that I should spend time with them instead of using my smartphone, I didn't understand. I got angry, I screamed. Otherwise that's not my style at all. " She had also become nervous, her fingers sometimes trembled, and she was no longer able to concentrate on the content at the university.
In recent years, even more extreme cases of general internet addiction have made headlines, even if the term is controversial and can also mean, for example, gambling addiction. In 2005, for example, the death of a man addicted to gambling caused a sensation who spent around 50 hours at a time in one of the 24-hour internet cafés. Four years later, a three-month-old baby died of malnutrition after the parents gambled in a café for several hours a day. Parents of smartphone-addicted children report violence, poor memory and attention problems. Doctors have recently observed an increase in neurological trauma such as headaches, cerebral infarctions or mental disorders among their patients. Internet addiction is said to be responsible for this.
The addiction to smartphones is sometimes an even bigger problem because, in contrast to gaming and surfing, parents have less control over them in front of their home PC. Political answers are even more difficult. Even with general internet addiction, the government is struggling. In 2011, a daily curfew of popular online game servers was introduced at midnight. Since this had little effect due to several bypass routes, a year later the rule followed for game manufacturers to include an element in their products that allows parents to observe and determine when their children can play.
With smartphones, the constant companion, such measures work even less. The government has recently started holding lectures in schools to raise awareness of the dangers of excessive use. Weekend classes are also available for parents to learn how to regain access to their children. However, there are limits to these measures. According to surveys by the Korea Computer Life Institute, at least a tenth of adults are also addicted to the Internet. Hyomin Song wants to move out of his home soon. If she then relapses, only she is responsible for herself.
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