The K-Scale for Internet Addiction is a checklist created by psychologists and social scientists in South Korea. K stands specifically for Korea. The reason the K-Scale for Internet Addiction is noted is because of the high rate of Internet use in Korea, where it is estimated that about 30% of kids under the age of 18 are at risk for becoming addicted to the Internet or compulsive Internet users.
Internet addiction is still a much debated topic, but social scientists are leaning more and more toward defining excessive Internet use as addictive behavior, because it has very similar symptoms to other behaviors considered to be addictive. There is some expectation that Internet addiction will be included in the next edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, due to the growing prevalence of certain behaviors among some Internet users. In order to define Internet addiction from a scientific standpoint, verifiable checklists like K-scale for Internet Addiction have been developed.
There are now several checklists and online tests you can take to determine if you have Internet addiction. The K-scale for Internet Addiction is one of them, most often administered by mental health professionals in Korea, to rate potential for signs of addiction. Evaluations include how much people use the Internet on a daily basis, how often they stay on the Internet longer than they planned or to the detriment of school work or work, whether they fantasize about being on the Internet when they’re not logged in, whether they have tried to be on the Internet less and failed, what their moods are like when they are off the net, and if being forced not to be on the net causes depression or anger, typical withdrawal symptoms. In many ways, the K-scale for Internet Addiction is similar to other scales used to measure addictive or compulsive behavior, like alcoholism or compulsive shopping.
South Korea uses the K-scale for Internet Addiction to then determine whether kids would benefit from mental health treatment. A number of boot camp style treatment facilities have been designed for adolescents, and the government pays for admission. Even though over 100 of these treatment facilities exist, estimates are that about 400-500 more are needed. The New York Times has called Korea, “the most wired nation on earth,” and this is indeed verifiable.
Some feel that building these treatment facilities is Korea’s way, along with the development of the K-scale for Internet Addiction in addressing the fallout of a behavior the country specifically encouraged. South Korea spent much time developing Internet service and touting its benefits. Almost everyone in the country has Internet access, which would certainly increase risk of some people becoming addicted.
Other countries are adopting forms of the K-scale, and China has started to produce similar Internet recovery centers for youths and adults. Along the way, South Koreans are also developing a profile of the type of person most likely to become addicted to the Internet, and the consequences personally and on the societal level of Internet addiction. For instance adolescent and young adult males are the largest population group to suffer from this illness, and Korean social scientists have found that people were exhausting themselves and skipping work or school to spend as much as 20 hours on the Internet daily.