[Letters] Will Internet shutdown help youth addiction?

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[Letters] Will Internet shutdown help youth addiction?

The Cinderella law is one of the hottest controversies in the country. This law is mainly about the “nighttime shutdown system,” which prevents gamers under the age of 16 from playing between midnight and 6 a.m.

A series of shocking cases have raised demands for stricter measures to curb online games. Some gamers have died after having spent days and even weeks at PC bangs without a break. A 3-month-old baby starved to death while her parents were busy nurturing their virtual baby. Around 938,000 of the country’s youth in their mid-to-late teens, or 14 percent, were found to be game addicts, according to a 2009 government report.

Recent discussions regarding the Cinderella law seem to be focused on the scope of the curfew. The Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism includes online games only, while the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family insists the system should also regulate mobile and console games. The Culture Ministry is concerned about the negative impact the proposed law would have on the online game industry. The Family Ministry, on the other hand, places more emphasis on youth protection.

However, good intentions don’t always guarantee the effectiveness of the law. Does the Cinderella law really serve its purpose of protecting youngsters from excessive online gaming? Is online gaming the only problem the young suffer because of the Internet?

Both bills proposed by the two ministries can bring about unintended consequences. The Special Law on Sex Trade is an example. After carrying out the law, prostitution spread out to residential streets, making it harder to control. A nighttime shutdown policy on online games could also result in a similar consequence. The young can be addicted to other Internet services or other addictive things. And despite the regulation, young users can easily log in to a foreign online game service. Consequently, this measure cannot fully solve the youngsters’ addiction problem.

The Cinderella law could also infringe on parental rights. And the excessive collection of personal data can violate one’s privacy.

The nighttime shutdown may have short-term effects, but it cannot be an ultimate solution. To help the young not be caught up in the network and to encourage them to do something better with their lives, we should look for ways to protect them from all Internet and game addictions including social network services and on-demand video.

First, schools should teach self-restraint as well as forming healthy attitudes while warning the young of the dangers of Internet addiction in computer classes. I learned to use the computer and the Internet starting in elementary school, but I was never warned of the seriousness of Internet addiction.

Second, programs for parent education are necessary. The programs should include such topics as how to guide their children at home, how to notice symptoms of addiction, and where to get professional help.

Third, the government should take on a stronger sense of responsibility to run sufficient Internet addiction centers. Game companies and Internet service providers could be forced to donate proportional amount of their revenues.

Lastly, I believe more community centers should be created for young people, where they would be provided with more exciting and healthy activities such as sports, dance, music and arts.

I am certain that this is quite a better solution than placing a nighttime shutdown system on the Internet. It takes a whole country to solve youngsters’ Internet addiction.

*Letters and commentaries for publication should be addressed “Letters to the Editor.” E-mailed letters should be sent to eopinion@joongang.co.kr.

Ghim Hee-won, third-year student at Seoul National University School of Law
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