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Campaign to Protect Kids from Tech Picks Up Steam

Kids spend an average of nine hours a day in front of a digital or media device. (Pixabay)
Kids spend an average of nine hours a day in front of a digital or media device. (Pixabay)
February 13, 2018

SALT LAKE CITY – A campaign has launched to protect kids' brains from the manipulative and addictive power of technology.

Known as the Truth About Tech, the campaign was started by the children's advocacy group, Common Sense, and the Center for Humane Technology, a group of technology-industry insiders who want tech to work in humans' best interests.

Colby Zintl is the vice president for external affairs with Common Sense, a group aimed at safeguarding kids in the digital age.

He says that 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," she says. "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."

According to a Common Sense study, 50 percent of teens feel addicted to their mobile devices.

The roadmap 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 says that means designs that have the best interests of kids and families in mind, not just profit. Unfortunately, she says 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 explains.

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

Eric Galatas, Public News Service - UT