Troubling Snapshot of Average Korean Teenager

Two out of three teenagers barely get any exercise, half are glued to their smartphones two hours a day, one-third believe that the best job is the one that pays the most money.

Those are among the troubling findings of a survey released Thursday by Statistics Korea and the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family of the lifestyle patterns and attitudes of teenagers.

Another alarming discovery was that one in 10 teenagers contemplated suicide over the past year.

◆ Addicted to Smartphones

Youngsters spend more time on their smartphones and less exercising. The proportion of teenagers who own smartphones doubled from 40 percent last year to 80.7 percent this year.

Sixty percent of them are glued to their smartphones for more than two hours a day. The proportion who watch pornography on their smartphones increased 8.2 percentage points to 20.5 percent.

But only one out of three teens said they exercise regularly. As a result, the rate of obesity increased steadily from 11.2 percent in 2008 to 14.7 percent this year.

◆ Stressed Out

Teens are feeling increasingly stressed out about their chances of finding jobs when they grow up. They favor steady long-term jobs that pay well rather than professions that would give them a chance to realize their dream.

Grades and schoolwork topped the list of causes of stress, but the proportion fell from 39.8 percent a decade ago to 32.9 percent this year. In contrast, 26 percent of teens these days are worried about what job they should choose, up from just 6.9 percent a decade ago.

At the same time teens became more realistic in their job preferences. The size of the paycheck was cited as the top reason for picking a particular profession by 28.5 percent, compared to 16.1 percent 10 years ago.

Only 6.9 percent chose developing their potential as the main reason and 5.8 percent said they would consider work satisfaction, both showing a marked decline compared to a decade ago.

Among those who said that they would pursue a bachelor's or higher degree, almost half gave as the reason "to get better jobs."

◆ Contemplating Suicide

One out of 10 teens or 11.2 percent had contemplated suicide over the past year. That marked a 2.4-percentage-point increase compared to 2010.

And 40 percent of those who had contemplated suicide said they felt that way due to poor grades, while 20.5 percent cited poverty or financial difficulties, 17.1 percent loneliness and 13.6 percent domestic problems.

The main cause of death among teens last year was suicide, accounting for 13 percent. The teen suicide rate has almost doubled over the last 10 years.

Experts say quality youth programs are urgently needed. "The rate of suicide can be reduced significantly through educational programs that focus on boosting self-esteem and satisfaction with their life, rather than preventing suicide itself," said Kwak Keum-joo at Seoul National University.

englishnews@chosun.com / May 04, 2013 08:04 KST