Purpose: Internet addiction has emerged as a major public health problem worldwide. In November 2011, the South Korean government implemented an online game shutdown policy, lasting from 12:00 to 6:00 AM, as a means of preventing Internet addiction in adolescents aged 15 or below. This study analyzed the effect of this shutdown policy on adolescent Internet use, addiction, and sleeping hours. Methods: We analyzed data collected from the Korea Youth Risk Behavior Web-based Survey from 2011 to 2015. Respondents were divided into two groups by age: aged 15 or below (male = 76,048, female = 66,281) and aged 16 or above (male = 52,568, female = 49,060). A difference-in-difference analysis was used to evaluate the effect of this shutdown policy. Results: In 2012, which is immediately following policy enforcement, daily amount of Internet use (in minutes) decreased more in adolescents affected by the policy (i.e., the aged 15 or below group). However, it steadily increased in 2013, 2014, 2015, and showed no meaningful long-term improvements 4 years after policy implementation (−3.648 minutes in 2012 [p = .001], −3.204 minutes in 2013 [p = .011], −1.140 minutes in 2014 [p = .384], and 2.190 minutes in 2015 [p = .107]). The shutdown policy did not alter Internet addiction or sleeping hours. Interestingly, female adolescents, adolescents with low academic performance, and adolescents with low exercise levels exhibited comparatively stronger and longer lasting initial declines in Internet usage. Conclusions: The shutdown policy had practically insignificant effects in reducing Internet use for target adolescents. Thus, policymakers aiming to reduce or prevent Internet addiction should use different strategies.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
- Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
- Psychiatry and Mental health