Bowling online : smartphones, mobile messengers, and mobile social games for Korean teen girls
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Due to their arduous schedules, Korean high school students have little time to socialize with their peers face-to-face. Because of this, socializing in online environments is important to them. Using smartphone applications, Korean high school girls are creating their own cultural practices as they socialize. However, media repeatedly report concerns about adolescents’ excessive use of smartphones, and the public has begun to worry about children’s media dependence. In exploring these phenomena, I pose four research questions: 1) what do smartphones mean to South Korean high school girls? 2) How do South Korean high school girls socialize through mobile messengers, such as Kakao Talk, and how are these activities related to their social capital and social networks? 3) How do South Korean high school girls socialize through mobile social games connected to mobile messengers, and how are these activities related to their social capital and social networks? 4) How is Korean high school girls’ attachment to smartphones related to smartphone addiction? For this research, I conducted focus group interviews with 23 Korean high school girls about their smartphone use. The findings of this research revealed that 1) South Korean high school girls established an exceptional attachment to smartphones; 2) interviewees were complementing the deficiency of offline socializing by establishing alternative online communities through smartphone messengers, and these social behaviors were increasing their bonding social capital; 3) Korean high school girls were interacting with their strong ties through mobile social games, and the interactions with their weak ties were limited and superficial; and 4) Korean high school girls were at risk for smartphone addiction in accordance with the existing criteria for media addiction.