[EDITORIALS]Helping Internet addictsA shocking report on the Internet’s side effects has been presented. According to statistical data of the Korea Agency for Digital Opportunity and Promotion, among 23.8 million Koreans in the 10-39 age group, those addicted to the Internet or who need medical care or education to prevent an addiction total 4.3 million. There are only 260 specialists who can give counseling on Internet addiction, however, and there is no window through which people can utilize them.
Korea ranks first in the world in terms of distribution of broadband Internet networks and in fourth place in terms of the number of Internet users. But there is a dark side. The number of sites providing obscene materials in Korean is the second highest in the world after those in English.
Not only adults, but also middle and high school students, even primary students, are exposed to obscenity helplessly. And it was found that students spent over 30 percent of their time on the Internet playing various computer games. In that sense, Korea is not an Internet power but “the largest user of obscene sites and games.”
A more serious problem is that the number of young people who are isolated from reality due to their indulgence in obscene Internet sites, games and chat rooms, is increasing rapidly. There is even a statistic that four out of 10 middle and high school students are addicts. It is not a healthy society when numerous young people indulge in the Internet and games, losing touch with the ouside world.
In practice, the damage from Internet addiction spreads rapidly through society: A young man died while playing online games for several days without interruption, and a family was destroyed because of the wife’s addiction to Internet chatting. Internet addiction does not remain just a personal problem but grows to pose serious social problems.
We must provide countermeasures swiftly. The government must strengthen its efforts to prevent the spread of obscene materials and establish a network of cooperation that will enable prevention, counseling, medical treatment and rehabilitation. Self-monitoring by Internet operators and cooperation among schools and parents are also essential. Families with young people should recommend activities other than Internet use. Without curing and preventing Internet addiction, Korea can’t be a leading country in the Internet and information technology.