Truth about Tech: Addiction by design

By Carole Hornsby Haynes

What many parents have suspected is now being exposed by former Silicon Valley employees: that tech companies have designed their digital products to be addictive.

The Center for Humane Technology, which was recently founded by former Google and Facebook employees, has joined forces with media watchdog Common Sense Media. In their first campaign – Truth About Tech – they will educate millions of consumers about the dangers of tech products and pressure tech companies to create less addictive and less intrusive products.

Tech companies incorporate techniques within the digital products that result in user addiction. Techniques are used to keep the user on screen longer while personal information is scooped up. Because Facebook and Google both use an advertising business model, more screen time means more money for the tech giants.

In December, Facebook released a new messenger app for children as young as 6, which is expected to become the first social-media platform used widely by young children. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg may just have awakened a “sleeping giant” with this reckless disregard for the well-being of young children. Child health groups are fighting back, demanding that Zuckerberg delete the app.

A letter signed by nearly 20 organizations and dozens of medical professionals cites the dangers of the use of social media by young children, including the inability to understand the privacy issues and complexities of online relationships.

A growing body of research exposes the negative impact of digital products. Teenagers spend an average of nine hours per day using media while tweens spend an average of six hours. The harmful impact on students includes attention and cognition disorders; depression, loneliness, stress, and anxiety; reduced productivity; hindrance of children’s development; and lack of critical-thinking skills.

Dr. Larry Rosen, a psychology professor who specializes in research on the impact of technology on people, warns that too much time spent on about Facebook by teenagers can result in narcissism, psychological disorders, higher absenteeism from school, lower grades and reduced reading retention.

Dr. Nicholas Kardaras, one the nation’s foremost addiction experts and author of “Glow Kids,” writes that video games, computers, cellphones and tablets are all “digital drugs” that stunt a child’s neural development. Dr. Peter Whybrow, director of neuroscience at UCLA, calls screens “electronic cocaine” while Chinese researchers call them “digital heroin.” In his clinical work with more than 1,000 teens, Kardaras found it easier to treat heroin and crystal meth addicts than a true tech addict.

The Truth About Tech campaign will target 55,000 American public schools about the dangers of digital products.

American K-12 schools spend about $5 billion annually on technology products. These are being marketed to school administrators under the guise that personalized learning – a feel-good term for computerized learning – will improve student achievement and prepare students for competing in the 21st century.

Yet rather than improving student academic performance, the use of technology is depressing it. Standardized test scores of American students are continuing to fall in reading with students admitting their reading comprehension is lower on screens.

Despite the tech industry’s claim that cutting edge education technologies can enhance student learning, many Silicon Valley executives at Hewlett-Packard, Apple, Google and Yahoo send their children to the Waldorf School of the Peninsula, which bans computer technology in the classrooms.

Google Executive Alan Eagle told the New York Times, “I fundamentally reject the notion you need technology aids in grammar school. … The idea that an app on an iPad can better teach my kids to read or do arithmetic, that’s ridiculous.”

Apple co-founder Steve Jobs famously admitted that he limited the amount of technology his children used at home, even refusing to allow them to use the new iPads.

It appears the tech industry faces a tsunami as public awareness campaigns are being launched to stop the reckless, irresponsible business practices of tech leaders and hold them accountable. These Silicon Valley billionaires had better listen to those who have made them mega wealthy.

Leave a Comment