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Teens’ smartphone addiction requires social solutions

Posted July. 04, 2013 05:17,   


Most of Korean parents are at war with children over smartphone use. At the dining table children keep looking at their smartphones without giving a glimpse at their parents. Countless children fiddle their smartphones in their bed after midnight. Under the circumstances, schools gather students’ smartphones and return them later.

The Gender Equality and Family Ministry and the Education Ministry surveyed of 1.7 million students at fourth, seventh and ninth grades on the use of the Internet and smartphone for the year 2013 and released a shocking result. The number of students at risk of addiction to smartphones experiencing resistance to smartphones or withdrawal symptoms was a whopping 240,000, which was twice the number of students at the Internet addiction risk. The figure also means one of seven students is at risk of smartphone addiction. Considering the survey included only three grades, the number of addicts can be close to a million.

Though a smartphone costs up to a million won (875 dollars), parents buy smartphones for their children to prevent their sons or daughters from being bullied at school. It is true that teens who do not get messages for them or estranged by others because they do not have a smartphone may feel hurt. According to the Korea Communications Commission, smartphone penetration rate among teens tripled in one year from 21.4 percent in 2011 to 64.5 percent in 2012.

Harmful consequences from adolescence smartphone addiction are more than a few, ranging from poor school performance, eyesight and stamina to concentration and sleep losses, excessive communications fees and exposure to electromagnetic waves. More than anything else, smartphone addiction causes problems in human relationship. While the Internet addiction is mostly about game addiction, smartphone addiction causes problems mainly through chatting.

Hurts from the conflict with parents or with peers through chatting have proven more serious than anyone’s expectation. Chatting programs, such as Kakao Talk, have been served as the epicenter of rumors, gossip and bullying. Students have committed suicide because of curses by a group of students. Increasing number of people have been asked for money or valuables, or threatened through chat rooms.

Smartphones have become a headache for school teachers. Many teachers collect and keep smartphones, but collected smartphones are often lost. Recently, 30 smartphones collected by a teacher were lost, and the responsible teacher had to sell his car to pay for the loss. It might be unthinkable in countries other than Korea that a school teacher has to pay for the cellphones out of his or her pocket, which were collected by the teacher but lost. This is why fundamental measures need to be developed.

If we cannot live without smartphones, we should learn how to use the gadget wisely. Families should find ways to increase conversation and tasks involving all family members. If problems are serious, it is recommended that families look for help from professional counseling institutes rather than trying to solve the problems with their teens. It is not only smartphones that needs to be smarter. The users should also be smarter.