14% of South Korean Students are Addicted to Smartphones

John Kim, May 9, 2016, 10:38 a.m.

A government study showed Monday that as of this year nearly 14 percent of South Korean schoolchildren are addicted to either smartphones or the Internet. By surveying 1.5 million students aged 11, 13 and 15, the study found that 200,000 of them were obsessed with their devices, with 55,000 of them addicted to both the Internet and smartphones.

Notably, the number of 11-year-olds -- fourth graders in elementary schools -- who are at risk of Internet or smartphone addiction increased from the year before, from 40,218 to 49,560. The statistics show that more young children are becoming vulnerable to this particular addiction, the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family said.

Symptoms of Internet and smartphone addiction can have negative effects on teenagers and their lives, according to the ministry. Signs of addiction include difficulty waking up in the morning, feelings of anxiousness when they are not online, sleep disturbances and having trouble completing tasks at school and home. 

Government data showed that children of double-income families and single-parent households were more likely to be addicted to the Internet and smartphones as they tend to spend a significant amount of time alone after school. According to a report released by the Gender Ministry earlier this year, 37 percent of all Korean elementary schoolchildren spend time alone after school as of last year. 

South Korea is one of the most wired countries in the world, with more than 80 percent of its entire population owning smartphones as of last year. To tackle smartphone and Internet addiction among teens, the country’s Gender Ministry has been running a state-run institution that offers therapy sessions and exercises for teenagers addicted to Internet and smartphones, since 2014. 


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