South Korea Fights "Digital Addiction"
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An estimated 2.55 million people in South Korea are addicted to smartphones, using these devices for eight hours a day or more, according to a recent national survey; and children as young as three years old are thought to be affected. The National Information Society Agency also says that 160,000 of the nation's children aged 5-9 are addicted to the Internet, which they access via smartphones, tablets and personal computers. "Babies are in a stroller with a smartphone holder. Kids sit in the grocery shopping cart watching movies on the tablet computer," says Kim Jun-hee, a kindergarten teacher who conducted an eight-month study on Internet safety and addiction education for pre-school children. "I've been teaching at kindergartens for more than 10 years now but compared to the past, kids these days are unable to control their impulses." Concern about the rise in digital addiction has prompted the country to provide tax-payer funded counseling for those who struggle with excess internet usage; and a recent law was enacted to help parents prevent gaming addiction among kids. The South Korean government also plans to implement programs to teach children aged 3-5 how to protect themselves from overusing digital gadgets. The programs will include teaching songs with lyrics that instruct kids to close their eyes and stretch their bodies after playing computer games; kids will also read fairy tales in which a character succumbs to Internet addiction and must learn to play games not involving computers. Internet addiction is not yet recognized as a mental illness, but there has been growing pressure from doctors and health officials across the world to treat it as one.