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South Korean teens so addicted to phones that they go into detox

A South Korean high school student knew there was a problem, so he enrolled in a government camp for teens who couldn't put their phones down.

"Even when I knew in my head, I had to stop using my smartphone, I just kept going," Yo said. "I couldn't stop, so I'll be at dawn."

Last year, about 30% of South Korean children between the ages of 10 and 19 were classified as "overdependent" on their phones, according to the Ministry of Science and Information and Communication Technology (MSIT). This means they have had "serious consequences" due to the use of smartphones, including a decline in self-control.

It is these children – like Yoo – who qualify for placement in state camps for treatment of Internet addiction. The program launched in 2007 and expanded in 2015 to include smartphones.

This year, the Ministry of Gender Equality held 16 camps nationwide for about 400 high school and high school students. For some parents, this was a last resort.

"I think they send children here because of their desperate desire to get help from an expert," says Yow Skone-Duke, director of the Gyeonggi-do Youth Counseling and Well-Being Center, which runs a teen camp in northern Gyeonggi Province.

Sleepless and Rolling Up

Yo was a high school student in high school, but from high school she was sunk to the bottom of the class. She will stay up late, scrolling through her Facebook feed, playing with the South Korean Snow Camera app and talking to friends about the instant messaging service KakaoTalk.

"I felt like my sense of reality was fading," Yoo said. "Even when I had a fun and productive day (with my friends), it was like a dream."

Her father, Yo-jo-ho, became more and more anxious about her. "There wasn't much conversation between the family," he said. "If I talked to her about her phone, there would be a dispute."

He set a time limit of two hours a day for using smartphones, but his daughter was still finding ways to work around it.

Yoo Chae-rin's idea was to join the camp in July. At the gate, she filed her phone for the first time in years and began a 12-day detox.

  Yoo Chae-rin, 16, and her father Yoo Jae-ho had arguments about how much she used

Detox camp

South Korean internet camps are free of charge, in addition to the 100,000 earned ($ 84) food fee. Boys and girls are sent to separate camps and each takes care of about 25 students.

In the camp, teenagers are encouraged to participate in scavenger hunts, arts and crafts and sports events. They should also attend mandatory one-on-one, group and family counseling sessions to discuss using their phone. Then, 30 minutes before bedtime, the campers meditate.

  Yoo Chae-rin, 16, joins smartphone-free activities at a government-run smartphone addiction camp in Cheonan, South Korea.

Many camps are held in youth training centers, away from the city, in green, leafy conditions to help young addicts exclude themselves. Yoo's camp was held in the city of Cheonan at the National Youth Center of Korea, which has an indoor pool and a playground.

Camp director Yoo Soon-duk stated that in the early days, teens had an "agonized look" on their faces. "From day three, you can see how they are changing," she said. "They (are) beginning to enjoy hanging out with friends."

On the wall in Cheonan camp, parents posted messages about a "tree of encouragement."

"We hope the camp will be a time to reflect on yourself and love yourself," read one.

While this camp is for teens, there are separate camps for elementary students, and the National Center for Youth Addiction Treatment offers programs throughout the semester.

  Parents of smartphone addiction camps have left encouraging messages on the wall of a campsite in Cheonan, South Korea.

Why teenage boys are so addicted

South Korea is not the only country where teenagers are hooked on phones – there is growing concern about the overuse of smartphones worldwide.

In 2015, 16% of 15-year-olds in OECD countries spend more than six hours online every day outside class hours, according to a report published in 2017. Over the weekend, the figure rises to 26%.

In South Korea, social pressure exacerbates the problem. There, children are faced with a high academic load and have several ways to relax. At the end of the school day, many are sent to courses, leaving little time for other activities.

In 2015, only 46.3% of 15-year-old South Korean students reported that they were sports or sports before or after school – the lowest percentage of all 36 OECD countries.

Lee Wu-rin, a 16-year-old student who attends the same camp as Yoo Chae-rin, said she used her smartphone to help ease stress from school. "I temporarily forget my stress when I'm on my phone," Lee said. "But the moment I stop using it, things that upset me are coming back to my mind. This has become a vicious cycle. "

Dr. Lee J-won, a psychiatrist who treats addiction to smartphones, said the cycle was a symptom of addiction. When people are stressed, it reduces dopamine in the brain, prompting them to seek other forms of satisfaction. Because teens have no other way of relieving stress, they use their smartphones.

"At first, smartphones calm them down, but in the end they think the smartphone is enough to make them happy," said Dr. Lee, "It makes them drop out of school or study." [19659013] Campers decorate their nails at a government-sponsored smartphone addiction camp in Cheonan, South Korea in July 2019 ” data-src-mini=”//cdn.cnn.com/cnnnext/dam/assets/190918154105-smartphone-son-activity-small-169.jpg” data-src-xsmall=”//cdn.cnn.com/cnnnext/dam/assets/190918154105-smartphone-son-activity-medium-plus-169.jpg” data-src-small=”http://cdn.cnn.com/cnnnext/dam/assets/190918154105-smartphone-son-activity-large-169.jpg” data-src-medium=”//cdn.cnn.com/cnnnext/dam/assets/190918154105-smartphone-son-activity-exlarge-169.jpg” data-src-large=”//cdn.cnn.com/cnnnext/dam/assets/190918154105-smartphone-son-activity-super-169.jpg” data-src-full16x9=”//cdn.cnn.com/cnnnext/dam/assets/190918154105-smartphone-son-activity-full-169.jpg” data-src-mini1x1=”//cdn.cnn.com/cnnnext/dam/assets/190918154105-smartphone-son-activity-small-11.jpg” data-demand-load=”not-loaded” data-eq-pts=”mini: 0, xsmall: 221, small: 308, medium: 461, large: 781″ src=”data:image/gif;base64,R0lGODlhEAAJAJEAAAAAAP///////wAAACH5BAEAAAIALAAAAAAQAAkAAAIKlI+py+0Po5yUFQA7″/>

"There is a high chance that they will live on their own after losing their family, jobs and friends," Dr. Lee said.

Not spending time with family and friends may mean that they do not develop the ability to resolve interpersonal conflicts, said Yoo, camp director. She recalled a participant in a youth camp who threatened to take her own life if she failed to leave the camp.

"For him, the smartphone was a bridge to society," she said.

The Government of South Korea hopes that early treatment for addiction can prevent problems in the future.

“Later, when (these adolescents) grow up and have difficulty in fulfilling their social roles, there is not only harm to a person, but also the resources of the nation will be expended to support them. It will be a double loss, "said Kim Song-bike, the department head who runs the camps at the Ministry of Gender and Family.

After camp

One month after camp, Yoo said he only used his phone for two up to three hours a day, compared to about six to seven hours ago.

One of the camp counselors helped her understand why she was spending so much time on the internet – once she got bored with one application, she would switch to another, and then another n another

"Before even thinking in my head that I should "But now, if I want to stop, I can stop right now."

However, Yoo is not sure how effective the detox was for her fellow inmates. "I had two roommates. Once the camp is over, one (of them) does not even say goodbye to me properly and runs out to use his smartphone, "she says.

According to psychiatrist Dr. Lee J-o, the long-term benefits of the camp depend on how much teens want Those who still can't control their need for smartphones after camp may need to seek medical attention.

Yoo said friends who go to camp have noticed an improvement in her phone habits, however, she cannot say the same for them and who fought the process.

"For friends who were forced to leave for their parents, I think the camp was not as effective for them."

[19659030] Lee J-su, CNN, Park Ji -min, Kim Na-yong and Shin-ja-eun contributed reports.

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