South Korea has the highest rate of internet addiction in the world and it is increasingly the country’s children who are spending every waking moment immersed in fantasy role play or gaming.
The government sees it as a national health crisis and is now taking drastic measures to help the country’s 2 million addicts.
They have set up a network of boot camps across the nation to offer the kids of Korea a digital detox.
In the remote and pristine mountains of South Korea, about as far away as one can get from the country’s high-tech cities, teenage internet addicts are turning up for a 12-day boot camp.
About a dozen teenage boys live, eat, sleep at the camp and every day starts with exercises.
At first the counsellors encourage human interaction to get them socialising again; for many the only friends they have had are online.
One of the basic ideas at the camp is to rebuild connections back to the real world and weaken ties to the virtual one to reclaim a childhood lost to the computer.
The job of the counsellors here is to get the kids to think about a future beyond the smartphone or iPad; to show them other possibilities and ultimately to try and bring back dreams and hopes that have been buried by their addictions.
The boys also undergo intense one-on-one counselling to work out any underlying causes of addiction like family conflicts or personality issues.
South Korean psychiatrists are urging more action as they are finding evidence too much screen time is damaging developing brains.
South Korea is most wired nation on Earth. Virtually every home is connected with cheap high-speed broadband.
But it does have a cost — one on 10 kids are addicts — so the country is now learning how to manage and moderate its high-tech future.
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