South Korea is one of the most wired countries in the world with an estimated 98% of the population connected with broadband Internet and 2/3 of the population owning smartphone devices. By 2015, South Korea plans to digitize all school textbooks and base all education around tablet computers. But being ultra-wired does have its drawbacks. Officials estimate that 160,000 children between the ages of 5 and 9 are addicted to the Internet. 2.55 million adults are addicted to smartphones using the devices for 8 hours or more per day. An estimated 2 million people cannot wean themselves from online video games (in 2010 a 3-year-old girl starved to death by parents who were addicted to marathon online game sessions). Children playing on smartphones forget to eat lunch and stay inside the classroom during PE to play with their phones.
11-year-old Park Jung-in explained:
“I get nervous when the battery falls below 20 percent. I find it stressful to stay out of the wireless hotspot zone for too long.”
To counter the growing problem, South Korean officials are widening efforts to prevent Internet and digital addiction in school-age children and preschoolers. Starting next year, South Korean children from the age 3 to 5 will be taught to protect themselves from overusing digital gadgets and the Internet. Teaching the dangers of Internet addiction will be mandatory from pre-school institutions through high school.