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Campaign Launched to Protect Kids From Addictive Tech

Kids spend an average of nine hours a day in front of a digital or media device. (Kevin Jarrett/Flickr)
Kids spend an average of nine hours a day in front of a digital or media device. (Kevin Jarrett/Flickr)
February 8, 2018

BISMARCK, N.D. — Children's advocates and technology insiders are teaming up in a new campaign to protect kids' brains from the potentially manipulative and addictive power of technology.

Common Sense, a group aimed at safeguarding kids in the digital age, and the newly formed Center for Humane Technology, made up of industry insiders, launched the Truth About Tech campaign on Wednesday. They're pushing tech companies to make their products less intrusive and addictive.

Colby Zintl, vice president for external affairs with Common Sense, said parents often blame themselves for the amount of time they spend with technology, but in fact these companies design their products for that purpose.

"These companies are pointing their super-powerful AI machines at our brains and it's like a giant chess board,” Zintl said. “They know 80 million moves ahead. They know what we want, they know how to keep us coming back, and they're building manipulative products so that we will continue to engage with them over time."

The groups also released a report called "Big Tech, Young Minds: A Road Map for Kids' Digital Well-Being" on Wednesday. According to a Common Sense study, 50 percent of teens feel they are addicted to their mobile devices.

The road map includes a call for more research into the health effects of technology on children. It also asks technology companies to pursue a standard of ethical design.

Zintl said that means designs that have the best interests of kids and families in mind, instead of just profit. Unfortunately, she said, technology companies haven't been their partner in these efforts yet.

"The point of this initial campaign and this partnership is to say, 'We're here and we have a voice and we want to represent parents' concerns, health-care practitioners' concerns, and some people who have worked in tech also who have concerns,’" she said.

According to the report, 98 percent of children under the age of eight have access to a mobile device at home. And kids spend an average of nine hours a day interacting with some sort of digital or media device.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - ND