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South Korea Tries to Scare Tech-Addicted Kids Offline

A new campaign warns school kids that smartphone addiction will make them "losers."

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Will tough love get kids to unplug?
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By Bryan Le

07/01/13

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A South Korean campaign against smartphone addiction involves warning kids in classrooms that too much internet use makes them "mindless slaves" or "losers." The new initiative requires all schools teach special internet addiction classes as well as sending "discipline boot camps" to schools to warn young students about the perils of tech-dependence. “We felt an urgent need to make a sweeping effort to tackle the growing danger of online addiction...especially given the popularity of smart devices," said the science ministry earlier this month when announcing the new policies. At one of these boot camp circuits, speaker Kim Nam-Hee urges kids to unplug by playing into their competitive nature. “While you become mindless slaves of smartphones and apps, the American elite behind these devices aren't giving them to their own kids," Nam-Hee told a class at an elementary school near Seoul. “If you use smartphones like the iPhone too much without using your own brain, you will eventually lose the ability and brain power to create something as great and innovative as the iPhone. Isn't that ironic?” About 70% of South Korea's 50 million people carry a smartphone—the highest rate in the world. More than 80% of kids aged 12 to 19 were found to have a smartphone in 2012, double from 2011. And a study from last year found that 2.55 million South Koreans use these devices for eight hours a day or more.

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