The Tech Industry’s War on Kids: How psychology is being used as a weapon against children


#1

Nestled in an unremarkable building on the Stanford University campus in Palo Alto, California, is the Stanford Persuasive Technology Lab […] The lab’s creator, Dr. B.J. Fogg, is a psychologist and the father of persuasive technology, a discipline in which digital machines and apps — including smartphones, social media, and video games — are configured to alter human thoughts and behaviors. As the lab’s website boldly proclaims: “Machines designed to change humans.”

Fogg speaks openly of the ability to use […] digital devices to change our ideas and actions: “We can now create machines that can change what people think and what people do, and the machines can do that autonomously.” […] Fogg has groomed former students who have used his methods to develop technologies that now consume kids’ lives. […] “My students often do groundbreaking projects, and they continue having impact in the real world after they leave Stanford… For example, Instagram […] The co-founder was a student of mine.”

If you haven’t heard of persuasive technology, that’s no accident — tech corporations would prefer it to remain in the shadows, as most of us don’t want to be controlled and have a special aversion to kids being manipulated for profit. Persuasive technology […] works by deliberately creating digital environments that users feel fulfill their basic human drives — to be social or obtain goals — better than real-world alternatives. Kids spend countless hours in social media and video game environments in pursuit of likes, “friends,” game points, and levels — because it’s stimulating, they believe that this makes them happy and successful, and they find it easier than doing the difficult but developmentally important activities of childhood.

[P]ersuasion techniques […] are particularly effective at influencing the still-maturing child and teen brain. “Video games, better than anything else in our culture, deliver rewards to people, especially teenage boys,” says Fogg. “Teenage boys are wired to seek competency. To master our world and get better at stuff. Video games, in dishing out rewards, can convey to people that their competency is growing, you can get better at something second by second.” […] [T]hat’s helped convince this generation of boys they are gaining “competency” by spending countless hours on game sites, when the sad reality is they are locked away in their rooms gaming, ignoring school, and not developing the real-world competencies that colleges and employers demand.

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.


#2

Thanks for posting this. It will be shared.
jt


#3

A socioeconomic system that makes young males sit around not doing anything of value was just asking for trouble.

I don’t doubt that smartphones have contributed to this, but it’s worth pointing out that Big Tech isn’t the only multi-billion dollar industry peddling mind-altering products for kids.


#4

A “war” or… dishonest business - as in doing anything one can to make their business vital for the economy and society. Most of these “evil scientists” are disrupted kids themselves or former tech-obsessed kids. They literally think it is fun and they see an immense opportunity for never having to worry about money again through these sites.
It’s hard to just find one big high-tech “nerd” to “hang”. Or even a posse. Since they were probably unhappy too with “reality” they think that the world world is a solution to happiness and no harm is done while they also get rich. Since happiness is a state of mind, some modern psychology believes it can be artificially re-created.
I have a hard time believing these tech-nerds are seriously scheming to make children unhappy.
How to limit these games development - I don’t know. There will never be a law against them and few people can spend that amount of time with kids to divert their attention from games.


#5

Oh, they’re scheming alright. And I don’t say that to criticize your post; it’s understandable that you (and many others) are reluctant to believe things are that bad. But they are. We continue to underestimate how evil the world is, and very often we fall for the red herrings of money and greed. “Yeah they’re only in it for the money – that’s really bad.” No, they are not in it for the money. They are in it to slowly but surely undermine man’s spiritual health. By writing it off as greed we understimate how bad things have already gotten, and how much worse they will get – and thus we put our Salvation, and that of our offspring, at risk.


#6

It’s the side effect. The intent is to make money but in the process it’s ruining the minds of children.

Parents shouldn’t buy video games for their kids so demand decreases.
It’s not going to be easy and saying no to children can be a battle. It’s no different from the approach on food because parents shouldn’t feed their children a whole bunch of junk food so there’s this comparison to consider.


#7

Rod Dreher commented on the above essay:

I am a total axe-grinder about the way parents — even Christian parents who are otherwise vigilant about their kids’ engagement with pop culture — roll over for technology, and hand their children over to it.

In my family, we are pretty strict with our kids regarding technology, but it’s a constant struggle, especially with FOMO — fear of missing out. The thing is, they really are missing out, because most of their friends do most of their socializing (“socializing”) online. But for us parents, what is the alternative? Turn our kids over to this monster?

Note well: technology is not neutral. If you think that your kids are fine because as far as you know, they’re not using the technology to look at porn or anything like that — you’re very wrong. The Freed piece explains why.


#8

This is all about sales and creating consumers. Those things have always been around - with lying, exaggerating, pushy salesmen. But now, all that manipulation can practically envelope a person who is plugged in constantly. Imagine walking around with a used car salesman in your pocket. A new Pew study found 45% of teens described themselves as “constantly online”.

Gaming, social media, data collection, advertising and retail are all connected through conglomerations to work together to manipulate anyone they can into buying something.

I don’t know if teenagers realize that they are indeed being groomed to be a generation of “super consumers”. Young people don’t seem to have any problem giving out all of their information to anybody in order to get something of little to no value in return. Data collection is the biggest thing in marketing today, and it’s being used to manipulate a generation that is well on its way to selling itself into screen addiction slavery.


#9

I was watching the BBC’s investigative show Panorama on smartphones (it’s called Smartphones: The Dark Side) and what stood out was the revelation tech executives purposely prevent their own kids from playing with them. Think about that. They know it’s not good for children and they protect their own children but they continually go after everyone else’s children. That’s profoundly evil.


#10

Marketers have been doing this for a long time. Subliminal messages, seductive imagery, and such. Probably seems the natural thing to do for the marketers of electronic media.


#11

Check this out in regards Media (all forms):

[seminar type]

[documentary type]


#12

We don’t need to worry so much about terrorism or World War III or environmental pollution or climate change or any of the other menaces facing the world. Our own technological gadgetry, with ever-increasingly sophisticated means, has already changed the minds and brains and souls of the younger generation for the worse and will most likely continue to wreak havoc with our thoughts, emotions, personalities, and social interactions. In other words, we are inadvertently in the process of destroying ourselves through the psychology of technology.


#13

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