Posted: Nov 28, 2012 12:26 AM PST Updated: Nov 29, 2012 6:43 AM PST
By YOUKYUNG LEE
AP Technology Writer
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) - Park Jung-in, an 11-year-old South Korean, sleeps with her Android smartphone instead of a teddy bear. When the screen beams with a morning alarm, she wakes up, picks up her glasses and scrolls through tens of unread messages from friends, shaking off drowsiness.
Throughout the day, the gadget is in her hands whether she is in school, in the restroom or in the street as she constantly types messages to her friends. Every hour or so, she taps open an application in her phone to feed her digital hamster.
"I get nervous when the battery falls below 20 percent," Park said as she fiddled with the palm-size gadget. "I find it stressful to stay out of the wireless hotspot zone for too long."
In South Korea, where the government provides counseling programs and psychological treatment for an estimated 2 million people who cannot wean themselves from playing online computer games, youngsters such as Park have previously not been considered as potential addicts.
Here and in other parts of Asia, online addiction has long been associated with hardcore gamers who play online games for days on end, isolated from their school, work or family life and blurring the line between the real and fantasy online worlds. In a shocking 2010 case in South Korea, a 3-month-old girl died after being fed just once a day by her parents who were consumed with marathon online game sessions.