Horses to the rescue of Korea's Internet-addicted teens
By Daum Kim and Eunhye Shin
INCHEON, South Korea (Reuters) - Four months ago, the parents of a teenage South Korean girl were at their wits' end over her addiction to surfing the Internet for pornography.
But now, thanks to a horse riding therapy program, their daughter appears to be back in control of her life.
In South Korea, the world's most wired country and where almost two-thirds of the population owns a smartphone, addiction to the Internet has become a major problem. Government data says 680,000 children aged between 10 and 19 are Internet addicts, or around 10 percent of the age group.
"I used to play with computers for seven hours a day, even overnight if my mother went on a trip," said the 14-year old girl, who preferred to be identified only by her surname, Kim.
To counter this sort of situation, the government introduced a so-called "Shutdown Law" last year, which blocks gamers under 16 from playing between midnight and 6 a.m. But its effect has been limited as teens circumvent the restrictions by using their parents' accounts.
Kim's parents tried art, music therapy and persistent nagging to try and stem their daughter's addiction.
When none of these worked, her school suggested the Riding Healing Center, a therapy organization that uses horse-riding to cure emotional and behavioral disorders, which it believes are an underlying cause of internet addiction.
"I care about horses and think about how I could ride them better, which has made me lose interest in computers and the Internet," said the bespectacled teen at the center, some 40 km (25 miles) from Seoul. Continued...