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Reggie Cy

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South Korea To Battle Cellphone Addiction Among Youth, 'Mindless Slaves' To Devices
Jul 11, 2013

Seoul, South Korea has long promoted itself as the technology capital of the world. Much of its economic growth comes from innovations like touch screen cellphones we are all familiar with and fast internet connections like 4G LTE. Close to 70 percent of South Korea's population owns a smartphone. According to government data, close to 80 percent of South Koreans aged 12 to 19 owned smartphones in 2012 — double the number of teens who owned a smartphone in 2011.

Despite all of its success in creating technology, South Korea fears its children are addicted to these devices. And it's not alone: many Americans may also be the victim of this addiction, suffering its consequences.

It has been estimated by an Experian study that all Americans spend an average of one hour on their smart phones each day. This time, spent using smart phones, can be highly distracting. In a 2009 study of texting and driving, drivers who sent and received text messages while driving spent 400 percent of their time not looking at the road, distracted by their cell phones.

The Federal Communications Commission estimates that 18 percent of fatal car accidents were a result of drivers being distracted while driving. They, and the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, found that test messaging while driving causes a driver to be 23 times more likely to get into a fatal car accident. Lastly, 11 percent of drivers aged 18 to 20 got into an automobile accident while sending or receiving text messages.

In light of phone use while driving, AT&T along with other phone service providers have begun the It Can Wait campaign, which promotes safe driving and a free mobile application that can defer phone calls and text messages upon entry into a car to promote safety and less phone use in distracting situations.

This is only one solution to the dangers of cell phone use. However, South Koreans feel that not only are their teens distracted, but they are also addicted to using their phones and cannot stop even if asked.

Even though South Korea is not the only nation with this technology problem, it is the first to do something drastic to change its youth's habits.

"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," the science ministry said when it announced a policy package on June 13. The policy organized both the health and educational departments of government to get schools to teach about Internet and technology addiction and to organize boot camps to wean students off of their dependency on technology.

"Our biggest focus these days is smartphones," Kwon Jang-hee, a former teacher, who began a civic group that campaigns against technology addictions, told the Korea Herald. He noted that parents could exercise far less control over their children's use of mobile devices compared to PCs at home. "The younger you are, the easier it is to become dependent," he said.

However, phones in the hands of little ones is not an infrequent occurrence. "Many young mothers nowadays have their babies play with smartphones for hours to have some peace at home, which I think is really dangerous," Lee Jung-hun, a psychiatrist at the Catholic University of Daegu, told Agence France-Presse.

Most disturbing is a comment from a member of Kwon's group. "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," said Kim Nam-hee, a member of Kwon's civic group.

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