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Japan's Screen-Addicted Kids Are Getting Help

Woman using tablet computer
Photograph by Getty Images/iStockphoto

It's not news that today's younger generation is much more reliant on technology. We didn't grow up with smartphones, tablets and Internet at the touch of a button, which is why it's a bit hard to wrap our minds around the idea of "screen addiction." Then again, we tote our laptops, iPhones (with work emails), and tablets everywhere we go. While the term "screen addiction" is sometimes used loosely, there's no denying that kids are constantly connected—but are often lacking much in-person connection.

In a country where an estimated 518,000 kids are addicted to the Internet, Japan's ministry of education is aiming to start Internet fasting camps to get children away from their computers, outside and interacting in an "unplugged environment," according to the Huffington Post. A spokesman for the ministry said, "We want to get them out of the virtual world and to encourage them to have real communication with other children and adults," which is understandable when you consider that Japan's birthrate has been declining over the years and celibacy rates among young adults have been increasing. Aside from the social effects later in life, too much screen time has also been linked to obesity, sleep problems and anxiety.

While many are hesitant to label screen addiction as an actual thing, or even a problem, it's interesting to note that while Japan is a heavily "connected" society, it is still behind China, the U.S. and India in the number of Internet users, according to the New York Post.

Ultimately, it falls to the parents to form good habits and control screen time. Just as kids are more likely to smoke if their parents do, they're also likely to be online if their parents are constantly connected. Encourage your kids to get outside and limit their screen time as much as possible. It's true: Just about everything is online nowadays, but that doesn't mean our kids have to be connected 24/7.

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