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I Wish I Knew How to Quit You

“I don’t have a problem,” Chang-hoon said in an interview three days after starting the camp. “Seventeen hours a day online is fine.”

The New York Times
has an article about a South Korean boot camp for kids with Internet addictions. South Korea, which claims to be the most wired nation on the planet, recently held an international symposium on Internet addiction . According to a government study, 30% of its youths under 18 (this people would be Digital Natives) are at risk for Internet addiction. With dramatic stories like gamers dying after gaming binges (one such case), Internet addiction is becoming an increasingly discussed phenomenon in Asia. In the United States, however, the American Psychiatric Association does not officially recognize Internet addiction as a disorder, though some argue that it should.

To go off on a slightly tangential idea, the question on my mind is whether this is a matter of a generational shift. Seventeen hours a day, like the kid quoted above, is excessive, but where do you draw the line? When most people think of Internet addiction, they probably think of gaming, yet what most Digital Natives spend hours online doing is socializing. Even in Internet gaming, the social interactions with fellow gamers is an important component. Meanwhile, for the average teenager, “I’m addicted to Facebook!” is an excuse for procrastination I often hear (and occasionally use), yet is it correct to characterize this as an addiction if you’re building and reinforcing social networks? The answer will probably be colored by your opinion on the quality of online social interactions. Either way, Internet use is becoming increasingly common and even necessary in today’s digital world.

-Sarah Z.

Cyberbullying on MySpace

As someone totally immersed in the digital world, I’m always a little surprised when I hear of people deeply suspicious of the Internet. It’s the 21st century, I think. But with stories like that of Megan Meiers, even I get shocked, slightly paranoid, and start fiddling with my Facebook privacy control.

Megan Meiers was an 8th grader in Dardenne Prairie, MO who began exchanging messages with a boy, Josh Evans, she met on MySpace. Out of the blue, Josh wanted to break off their relationship and sent messages saying, “I don’t know if I want to be friends with you anymore because I’ve heard that you are not very nice to your friends.” Megan, who had a history of self-esteem problems and depression, committed suicide.

The bizarre and tragic twist to this story is that Josh Evans turned out to be a fake. He was an online identity created by a mother of Megan’s former friend. The original St. Charles Journal article left out the names of the imposters, but bloggers have outed their identity online. Megan’s parents went to the media with their story and are pushing for legislation to criminalize the mother’s actions. Anyone with legal expertise have any thoughts?

The issue here obviously stretches beyond the digital world, but it does bring up the unique problem of cyberbullying: anonymity. After all, anyone can be a dog on the Internet, and anyone could be your ex-friend’s mom.

-Sarah Z.