Protect teens from digital addiction
Teens spend most of their time surfing or texting their time away on mobile phones that connect instantly to the Internet. Their intelligence and memory abilities as well as their social interaction skills are disrupted and debilitated by digital technology.
The biggest reason for this is the rapid spread of smartphones among children and teenagers aged between 6 and 19. According to the science ministry, nearly seven out of 10 in the under-19 age group (65.5 percent) owned a smartphone as of last year, the proliferation rate tripling from a year earlier.
The ruling Saenuri Party earlier this month proposed a bill to include restriction on smartphone use on school grounds in elementary and secondary schools.
It claimed that students engage in mobile games or chats in classrooms and use social networking services to bully or threaten peers, disrupting education. But regulations alone cannot physically curb teen addiction to digital gadgets and services.
Various government ministries and agencies joined an extensive national program to prevent addiction to the Internet and mobile phones and offer consulting, treatment and care to prevent teens from being glued to their mobile devices and computers.
It is a good sign that government agencies have raised a joint campaign to combat the issue. But digital addiction cannot be simply addressed and contained through approaches similar to fighting addiction of alcohol and drugs.
The government must first research and analyze through various means the social, psychological, medical, educational and cultural backgrounds and factors that lead to dangerous growth rate of digital addiction among Korean teens.
Then it must seek cooperation from homes, schools, local communities and religious groups to offer other options to keep kids off the Internet.
The government cannot accomplish this mission alone. Society must chip in to fight teen smartphone addiction.