Collaboration

South Korea starts boot camp to cure Internet addiction

In a compound that looks part boot camp and part rehab center, drill instructors drive young men through military-style obstacle courses while inside, counselors take the lead in group sessions. Welcome to the Jump Up Internet Rescue School in South Korea, believed to be the first of its kind in the world. Its purpose: To help their youths to kick their addiction to cyberspace.

In a compound that looks part boot camp and part rehab center, drill instructors drive young men through military-style obstacle courses while inside, counselors take the lead in group sessions. Welcome to the Jump Up Internet Rescue School in South Korea, believed to be the first of its kind in the world. Its purpose: To help their youths to kick their addiction to cyberspace.

South Korea is the most wired nation on earth, ninety percent of homes connect to cheap, high-speed broadband, with Internet parlors available on practically every street corner. Yet such ready access to the Web has come at a price from a generation of users who seem unable to tear themselves away from their computer screens.

The government has built a network of 140 Internet-addiction counseling center nation-wide to address the issue, among other efforts. The Internet Rescue Camp is the latest initiative and is completely paid-for by the country.

According to The New York Times:

The rescue camp, in a forested area about an hour south of Seoul, was created to treat the most severe cases. This year, the camp held its first two 12-day sessions, with 16 to 18 male participants each time.

One of the participants, Lee Chang-hoon, 15, started using the computer to pass the time while his parents were working and he was home alone. According to the article:

He spent 17 hours a day online, mostly looking at Japanese comics and playing a combat role-playing game called Sudden Attack. He played all night, and skipped school two or three times a week to catch up on sleep. When his parents told him he had to go to school, he reacted violently.

“I don’t have a problem,” Chang-hoon said in an interview three days after starting the camp. “Seventeen hours a day online is fine.”

Yet it is clear that not everyone is on the same page on whether Internet addiction represents a problem. Mike Masnick over at TechCrunch wrote:

For years, we've pointed out how ridiculous it is for people to be blaming Internet addictions for things, when almost every case of "internet addiction" that's demonstrated that the actual problem was something else, and the internet usage was just a way of "escaping" from those other problems.

... On top of that, reports have shown that so-called "internet addictions" tend not to be particularly harmful, and it makes you wonder what the big deal is.

As an IT professional and possibly parent, what is your take on this? Would you rank Internet addiction on the same footing as substance or drug abuse?

Is Internet addiction a growing problem that needs to be swiftly addressed?

About

Paul Mah is a writer and blogger who lives in Singapore, where he has worked for a number of years in various capacities within the IT industry. Paul enjoys tinkering with tech gadgets, smartphones, and networking devices.

9 comments
CavalierX
CavalierX

If we're going to start force-curing people of things, can we start with cellphone addiction? I was in a convenience store yesterday, and both the clerk and the person ahead of me in line were glued to their cellphones. The clerk rang up the wrong price; the customer didn't notice. But that was okay, because he also gave her too much change, which she also didn't notice. I waited until her car was well out of sight before leaving the parking lot myself. But how many more of these cellphone zombies are out there?

LocoLobo
LocoLobo

Guess I'm old but I can't imagine my parents letting me spend 17 hours watching TV when I was young. So why are parents letting their kids spend so much time on the internet? More important why are they letting them skip school? Or is this a case of both parents working long hours and the media is the babysitter? The article did say this was for extreme cases.

paulmah
paulmah

As an IT professional and (possibly) parent, what is your take on this? Would you rank Internet addiction on the same footing as substance or drug abuse? Is Internet addiction a growing problem that needs to be swiftly addressed?

LocoLobo
LocoLobo

Use the cell! LOL Try crossing the street. More than half the time the late red light runner has a cell stuck to their face.

eebyaj
eebyaj

It baffles me why a kid would be allowed to rot in front of the computer for 17 hours a day without some kind of intervention from the parents. There is a big world outside the front door that has a lot more to offer than mousing through trivial entertainment on the Internet. Sure, the Internet is a great tool for work and play but it is no substitute for peers or parents. Perhaps the prevalence of latch-key cyberkids is a growing sign of the weaknesses in our social systems. It certainly is an indicator of a negative change in family unit. As parents, we have to teach our children the difference between a comic book and an encyclopedia. The Internet, like the local library, offers both.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

It seems to be treating the symptom rather than the cause. A kid who will get so attached to the computer that they will skip school and respond violently would just as easily become that obsessive over TV, books, substances or any other thing. Why is it suddenly "internet addiction" (insert picture of scarry downfall of society here). The other bit I noticed was that it's all network enabled activities. It's not an addiction to the internet.. it's an obsession with manga and a video games; it's "internet".. the networked computer is only the medium over which other media is transfered. Look at the causes.. why is that child left alone for so long. Why did the parents let this obsessive behavior escalate to this level? There are addictive personalities that will naturally obsess on whichever topic they get attached too. We've all seen the people who can't quit smoking, have to watch too much tv or have to do whatever other activity they spend too much time at. Same old same old. Every generation will blame the technology of the new generation rather than consider the causes.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

Picture it; everyone is leaving the train rushing off to there place of work when someone out in front feels there pocket vibrate and stops dead or slows to a crawl while they just gotta check that new email on the blackberry. The rest of the crowd should be allowed to plow them over but we're all to polite so we bunch up and run into one another while trying to get around the zombie. The train is already crowded and more people are getting on so the remotely aware are looking to move into whatever space is available. There's a nice big spot that would happily hold four people and take some of the conjestion out of the other doors. No chance though, some zombie is going through there crackberry mail and no one can get around them or manage to capture there attention. another one, picture this; the subway platform has an escalator and stairs going up. The mass of people will leave the train and all crowd into the escalator. A big cone of oblivious sheep srawls out from the escalator blocking everything else including the way to the steps; which remain empty. The people who's legs *do* work and are happy to use the empty steps can't get through the crowd to do so even. Of course, there are always plenty of cell and crackberry zombies in the mix just to make sure it all goes as unsmoothly as possible. Bah... gadget etiquette would be a lovely thing to see more people consider. It'd be even better if the sheep would be remotely aware of there seroundings. I've no problem with the technology if the owners would show the remotest consideration for those around them or remote awareness for there seroundings.

kingttx
kingttx

That's when you start taking those air horns with you. When someone is too oblivious to care about the world around them, a little blast ought to wake them up!

Editor's Picks