I’ve referred before to the dangers posed by overuse of smartphones by children and teenagers. Now, an article by a child psychologist reinforces the warnings of others. It’s titled “The Tech Industry’s War on Kids: How psychology is being used as a weapon against children“. It’s long, but it repays your time and attention. Here’s an excerpt.
Quietly, using screens and phones for entertainment has become the dominant activity of childhood. Younger kids spend more time engaging with entertainment screens than they do in school, and teens spend even more time playing with screens and phones than they do sleeping. The result is apparent in restaurants, the car sitting next to you at the stoplight, and even many classrooms: Attesting to the success of persuasive technology, kids are so taken with their phones and other devices that they have turned their backs to the world around them. Hiding in bedrooms on devices, or consumed by their phones in the presence of family, many children are missing out on real-life engagement with family and school — the two cornerstones of childhood that lead them to grow up happy and successful. Even during the few moments kids have away from their devices, they are often preoccupied with one thought: getting back on them.
In addition to the displacement of healthy childhood activities, persuasive technologies are pulling kids into often toxic digital environments. A too frequent experience for many is being cyberbullied, which increases their risk of skipping school and considering suicide. And there is growing recognition of the negative impact of FOMO, or the fear of missing out, as kids spend their social media lives watching a parade of peers who look to be having a great time without them, feeding their feelings of loneliness and being less than.
The combined effects of the displacement of vital childhood activities and exposure to unhealthy online environments is wrecking a generation. In her recent Atlantic article, “Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation?,” Dr. Jean Twenge, a professor of psychology at San Diego State University, describes how long hours spent on smartphones and social media are driving teen girls in the U.S. to experience high rates of depression and suicidal behaviors.
And as the typical age when kids get their first smartphone has fallen to 10, it’s no surprise to see serious psychiatric problems — once the domain of teens — now enveloping young kids. Self-inflicted injuries, such as cutting, that are serious enough to require treatment in an emergency room, have increased dramatically in 10- to 14-year-old girls, up 19% per year since 2009.
. . .
As a child and adolescent psychologist myself, the inevitable conclusion is both embarrassing and heartbreaking. The destructive forces of psychology deployed by the tech industry are making a greater impact on kids than the positive uses of psychology by mental health providers and child advocates. Put plainly, the science of psychology is hurting kids more than helping them.
. . .
Having children of their own can change tech execs’ perspective. Tony Fadell, formerly at Apple, is considered the father of the iPad and also of much of the iPhone. He is also the founder and current CEO of Nest. “A lot of the designers and coders who were in their 20s when we were creating these things didn’t have kids. Now they have kids,” Fadell remarks, while speaking at the Design Museum in London. “And they see what’s going on, and they say, ‘Wait a second.’ And they start to rethink their design decisions.”
There’s more at the link.
That’s some seriously scary stuff, right there. I’m forced to wonder: if an enemy were to design a weapon to undermine, demoralize and fragment US society, destroying its internal cohesiveness, could he have done much better than the smartphone?
These concerns are precisely why I don’t use my smartphone to anything like its full potential, because even though we’re no longer children or teenagers, I’ve seen too many of my adult friends become slaves to their smartphones. I use no social media apps on mine at all, not even Blogger; I don’t use the phone as a Web browsing device except for urgent need; and I frequently don’t carry it at all, preferring to leave it at home where I’m not constantly tethered to it. If someone needs me, they can send a text or leave a voicemail message, and I’ll respond as and when I get it. I don’t have to be at others’ beck and call all day, every day. I’d regard that as extremely unhealthy . . . but then, I’m something of a dinosaur, I suppose. I still value my privacy.