Korea was witnessing the youth internet addiction become a critical social issue, while systematic preventive measures were not being institutionalized. Seoul took the initiative and set up “I Will Centers” to prevent addiction and provide recovery counseling, making significant contributions in leading the youth of the city to foster a healthy internet culture.
Major Activities of “I Will Centers”
“I Will Centers” offer their services to not just children and adolescents, but also to parents. The major duties of the centers include counseling on internet addiction, addiction prevention education, research, campaigns and advocacy. For counseling, the centers provide individual and group counseling, mentoring services, camps and alternative activities for addicts and those at risk for addiction alike. They send out counselors to those living in seclusion making in-home counseling available. For internet overuse prevention education, the centers offer children and adolescents tailored educational programs depending on their physical and mental development stages, along with programs designed for parents and even teachers. As for research, the centers carry out studies and hold academic conferences on internet addiction, prevention and recovery. For advocacy, the centers carry out “healthy cyber culture” campaigns throughout the year while also seeking further government support.
“I Will Centers” have recorded significant achievements in internet addiction counseling and prevention efforts since 2007 when the first of these centers opened in southern Seoul. The number of counseling and preventive services offered was 5,900 in 2007; it increased to 749,000 in 2012, increasing more than 100 times over. There have been a total of 1.7 million services between 2007 and 2012.
According to a school screening survey, the internet addiction ratio among students from primary to high schools in Seoul was 10% in 2009. It dropped to 6.9% in 2010 and 5.4% in 2011, reflecting the effects of preventive efforts.
Achievement in Service Quality and Satisfaction Survey
Along with the service expansion, “I Will Centers” have improved their services year after year. For example, “Gwang-jin I will Center” recorded a 77% program satisfaction rate in 2010. It rose to 88% in 2011. The average class size of the each preventive class dropped from 30 persons to 27 persons.
“I Will Centers” also offer the “Dream Tree Program,” an integrative long-term therapy program, targeting the young classified as having the highest risk of internet addiction due to personal susceptibility or unfavorable family environments. The program has been especially highly praised by the family participants for its approach that attacks the root causes of addiction risks. A teacher who sat in on the long-term treatment program summed up the program by stating, “Because of the characteristics of the region my school is situated in, many of our children are from underprivileged families or broken homes. The Dream Tree program has given such children the hope that they can have a happy childhood by going out and getting engaged in various fun games and activities instead of sitting alone for hours on and playing internet games on the computer”.