Apparently some people get a bit upset when they are separated from their smartphone. Unable to tweet, skype or update their Facebook status they get in what is generally called a huff (aka bad mood, surly behaviour, being a pain). This condition is formally now recognised by some psychologists and is called nomophobia (for “no mobile phone phobia”): the fear of being without one’s phone.
Most health care professionals (and parents) suggest ‘getting out more’ and ‘talking to real people’, as a sure fire cure for nomophobia. However, in South Korea even this traditional cure isn’t working. The South Korean government is worried about excessive smartphone usage by the nation’s youth, and is looking to control usage to ease the effects of nomophobia.
There have been several studies looking at the risks of nomophobia in kids and the South Korean government is taking them very seriously. A survey of 15,600 smartphone users aged 10 to 54 by the National Information Society Agency in March 2014 found that 25% of South Korean high school students are prone to smartphone addiction (up from 11% in 2013). According to this government study, users who are at risk of addiction spend around five and a half hours each day using their smartphones.
Keen to ensure that levels of nomophobia are contained the South Korean government is taking steps. There is already a midnight cut off for computer gamers under 16 years old from playing online games such as the imaginatively titled Sudden Attack (I assume this is not a game promoting coronary care). Now the after dark gaming curfew could be extended to smartphone gamers and the government is looking to see how it could distribute apps to censor specific types of harmful content.
Getting Government involvement in enforcing usage policies and restricting traffic seems a bit extreme. If there are social concerns about kids using their smartphones too much there are plenty good parental controls options that mobile providers can make available. The results will be the same – control smartphone usage when kids should be sleeping and just say no to nomophobia.