Smartphone Addiction is Forcing Teens to Enroll in 'Detox Camps'
Wed, April 21, 2021

Smartphone Addiction is Forcing Teens to Enroll in 'Detox Camps'

A government program launched detox camps to decrease the number of teens who are smartphone addicts / Photo Credit: 123RF


Spending too much time on the internet can often go unnoticed. An hour could pass and people would think they've only been using their smartphones for a few minutes. While smartphones are important to keep us connected, excessive use can lead to detrimental effects—including addiction. Teens have been found to be at a high risk of developing a smartphone addiction, and this realization is making them enroll in camps to help them put their phones down.


Widespread addiction

On average, people spend three hours and 15 minutes on their phones every day—with smartphone users spending up to four and a half hours on their phones, according to The Guardian. Aside from the time spent using one's phone, the number of times they pick up their phones up also indicates the effects these devices have on users.

The Guardian says people generally pick up their phones 58 times a day. Some of these pickups can be purposeful—checking their email or sending a quick text—but it could lead to people unintentionally checking their social media sites, even when they don't need to.

The amount of time spent online is found to be much higher in teens. According to 2017 report, about 16 percent of teens in OECD countries like Canada, Japan, and the US were found to spend over six hours online every day outside of school hours—and that number increased to 26 percent during weekends.

Smartphone addiction is a growing problem worldwide, but societal pressures in South Korea are heightening the issue. South Korean teens are faced with demanding academic work and some are sent to cram classes after school, leaving them with little to nearly no time for other activities.



In fact, the country has the lowest percentage of students exercising or practicing sports before or after school (46.3 percent) out of all the 36 OECD countries. With the lack of time for other activities, teens are turning to smartphones to relieve stress from school.

"I temporarily forget my stress when I'm on my phone," Lee Woo-rin, a 16-year-old student who attended some of the detox camps, told CNN. "But the moment I stop using it, things that made me upset come back to my mind. It became a vicious cycle."

That cycle is a symptom of addiction, according to psychiatrist Lee Jae-won. Humans naturally seek other forms of satisfaction when they are stressed and dopamine levels in the brain drop. This stress is what leads teens to use their smartphones in order to ease it.

"At first, smartphones comfort them, but they eventually think that a smartphone is enough to make them happy," the psychiatrist said. "This leads them to give up school or studies."


Detox camp

The South Korean government established a detox camp for teenagers who are becoming increasingly dependent on their smartphones. American thinktank Pew Research Center reported South Korea having the highest ownership of smartphones with 95 percent of adults saying they have a smartphone.

Government figures show that over 98 percent of South Korean teens used a smartphone last year and many of them are demonstrating signs of addiction.

Around 30 percent of children aged 10 to 19 were classified as "overdependent" on their phones leading to "serious consequences," CNN reports, citing the Ministry of Science and Information and Communications Technology (MSIT).



These children are the ones who are qualified to enroll in the state-run detox camps that will help them treat their internet addiction. The government program, which began in 2007, held 16 camps throughout the country to help 400 middle and high school students—a means that some parents see as a last resort.

"I think they send kids here because of their desperate desire to get an expert's help," Yoo Soon-Duk, Director of Gyeonggi-do Youth Counseling & Welfare Center, told CNN.

Admission into the detox camps is free, except for the 100,000 won ($84) fee for food, and each camp can accommodate around 25 students, separating boys and girls.

There, the students are encouraged to join various activities such as sports events, arts and crafts, and even scavenger hunts. Enrollees are required to attend one-on-one, group, and family counseling sessions about their phone usage. The campers also meditate 30 minutes before sleeping.


It recorded that teens spend most of their time using their smartphones / Photo Credit: 123RF


Most of the camps are held in youth training centers outside of the city with green, leafy settings that help teens switch off.

It's becoming increasingly difficult for people to reverse their dependence on devices like smartphones. Not only do these devices make it easier for them to communicate, but they also provide a quick way to ease the mind. The increased accessibility also doesn't help people from disconnecting.

Speaking to The Guardian, author Michael Harris cited inventor Thomas Edison who said, "We will make electricity so cheap that only the rich will burn candles." Harris said this is reflected in today's society where "we’ve made the internet so accessible that only the wealthy will be disconnected."

Banning social media and tech detoxes are just some of the ways that may help not only teens but also adults lessen their dependence and time spent on their smartphones.