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Some teens in South Korea exhibiting 'digital dementia'

Some teens in South Korea exhibiting 'digital dementia'
'Digital dementia,' or decrease in overall cognitive skills hurt youth. UPI/Stephen Shaver | License Photo

SEOUL, June 26 (UPI) -- Some teens in South Korea are exhibiting what is being described as "digital dementia," or deterioration of thinking and memory, a psychiatrist says.

Psychiatrist Kim Dae-jin at Seoul St. Mary's Hospital recently diagnosed a 15-year-old boy with symptoms of early onset dementia due to intense exposure to digital technology -- television, computer, smartphone and video games -- since age 5. He could not remember the six-digit keypad code to get into his own home and his memory problems were hurting his grades in school.

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"His brain's ability to transfer information to long-term memory has been impaired because of his heavy exposure to digital gadgets," the psychiatrist told the Korea JoongAngDaily.com.

South Korea is highly wired -- 65 percent of teens have smartphones -- and doctors said they were finding a growing number of cases of memory problems, attention disorders and emotional flattening among children and teens who spent a lot of time Web searching, texting and using multimedia.

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"Overuse of smartphones and game devices hampers the balanced development of the brain," said Byun Gi-won, who runs the Balance Brain Center in Seoul, which helps those with cognitive problems related to computers and smartphones.

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Youth might be at more risk than adults because up to age 25, their brains are still developing.

"From the early 2000s, I've seen a drastic increase in patients with reduced memory spans, especially young people. When I looked at it, most of them were exposed to the heavy consumption of digital gadgets," Dr. Kim Young-bo at Gachon University Gil Medical Center's brain research institute in Incheon told the newspaper.

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"The gadgets ease the burden of memorizing tedious information but if we don't use our brain functions, the overall cognitive skills of being aware and perception will ultimately decrease."

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