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Surprising Science

South Korean Government Takes Action Against Online Addiction

It’s a growing concern all over the industrialized world, but the country with the highest smartphone penetration rate has put a new education policy package in place.

What’s the Latest Development?

Earlier this month, the South Korean government’s science ministry presented a policy package, developed in conjunction with the health and education ministries, that’s designed to address the increase in online addiction among the country’s youth. The package “requires schools to teach special classes on Internet addiction and organise holiday ‘boot camps’ to wean students off their dependency.” Kwon Jang-Hee, a former schoolteacher who campaigns for smarter use of devices, says his group’s biggest focus is now on smartphones, and warns that parents should be aware of their addictive power while their children are still babies.

What’s the Big Idea?

According to market research firm eMarket, 70 percent of South Korea’s 50-million-strong population own smartphones, more than any other country in the world. Government data shows that more than 80 percent of young people aged 12-19 owned smartphones in 2012, double the number in 2011. In a recent school presentation to 10-year-olds, Kwon’s fellow campaigner Kim Nam-Hee pointed out the irony of addiction to devices: “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.”

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