Are social media, the Internet and smartphones addictive by design, much like cigarettes? That's what a group of Silicon Valley "geeks" who were early employees at Facebook and Google are saying and acting upon, alarmed over the ill effects of digital devices, networking tools and apps.
The group is creating a union of concerned experts called the Center for Humane Technology. Along with the nonprofit media watchdog group Common Sense Media, it also plans an anti-tech addiction lobbying effort and an ad campaign at 55,000 public schools in the United States.
The campaign, titled The Truth About Tech, will be funded with $7 million from Common Sense and capital raised by the Center for Humane Technology. Common Sense also has $50 million in donated media and airtime from partners including Comcast and DirecTV. It will be aimed at educating students, parents and teachers about the dangers of technology, including the depression that can come from heavy use of social media.
Tristan Harris, a former in-house ethicist at Google who is heading the new group, says “We were on the inside, we know what the companies measure. We know how they talk, and we know how the engineering works.”
Says the New York Times, the effect of technology, especially on younger minds, has become hotly debated in recent months. In January 2018, two big Wall Street investors asked Apple to study the health effects of its products and to make it easier to limit children’s use of iPhones and iPads. Pediatric and mental health experts called on Facebook last week to abandon a messaging service the company had introduced for children as young as 6. Parenting groups have also sounded the alarm about YouTube Kids, a product aimed at children that sometimes features disturbing content.
You don't have to wait for Apple, Facebook, Instagram, SnapChat, or YouTube's Google to wisen up and make their services child-proof. Family Zone offers controls and cybersafety for children on their phones and laptops at home, on the go and at school for those lucky enough to be in a partner school.