Finally, tech insiders speak up for parents


Many influencers have been calling on technology companies to redesign their products to make them easier for parents to parent around. Industry insiders are finally publicly requesting that tech companies make changes to the addictive nature of their products. Another positive trend is that many celebrities are promoting breaks from social media.

Parents, teachers, and principals all over the world who I talk to are desperately seeking solutions to the hourly battles with their youth about screen time. Let’s share with these young people how the folks who create technology, and the celebrities who thrive off it, are rethinking its effects. Here are some examples:

Salesforce (company that creates software to manage sales) CEO Marc Benioff said on CNBC’s Squawk Alley, "I think that you do it exactly the same way that you regulated the cigarette industry. Here's a product: Cigarettes. They're addictive, they're not good for you. I think that for sure, technology has addictive qualities that we have to address, and that product designers are working to make those products more addictive and we need to rein that back."

In 2015, singer Ed Sheeran publicly said, "I’m going to travel the world and see everything I missed" after spending the last five years taking life in "through a screen." In 2017, he re-emerged and told E! News, "I feel like life is all about balance, and my life wasn't balanced. Taking it all off the scale balanced it, oddly enough."

In 2016, Selena Gomez took a 3-month phone break. "I recently took 90 days off. During that time I did not have my cell phone," she told Thrive Global. "It was the most refreshing, calming, rejuvenating feeling. Now I rarely pick up my phone, and only limited people have access to me."

That same year, Julia Roberts revealed to InStyle, “Everyone has Instagram on their phone. And I just, yeah, [if I had it] I would be looking at it all the time.”

In 2017, Emily Watson spoke to CNN,  “Social media takes so much of our attention. It’s so important to keep an eye on what your daily diet is. In the same way, we think about what we eat, we should think about what we read, what we’re seeing, what we’re engaging and what we’re interacting with every day.”

Barry Rosenstein, the managing partner of JANA, one of the biggest investors in Apple, signed an open letter to Apple asking them to add features that would make their phones less addictive, especially for children. As reported by CNBC, Rosenstein wants Apple "to build software that would give parents more options to limit children's phone use, pointing out that the iPhone maker's reputation and stock could be hurt if this issue remains unchecked.”

This week Apple released a landing page on their website that gives tips to parents on managing their children’s screen use, purchasing habits, and tracking. Apple has not created, nor publicly disclosed, that they will make software that will help parents gain control of time spent.

Tristan Harris, a former employee at Google, and Aza Raskin, who headed user experience at Mozilla, just founded the Center for Humane Technology. The center’s mission is to pressure companies like Apple and Microsoft to “redesign their devices and core interfaces to protect our minds from constant distractions, minimize screen time, protect our time in relationships, and replace the App Store marketplace of apps competing for usage with a marketplace of tools competing to benefit our lives and society.”

For this week's Tech Talk Tuesday, let’s discuss tech’s responsibility in preventing excessive screen time and the celebrity voices in this dialogue. Here are some conversation starters:

  • What is something interesting you have heard about companies or celebrities regarding healthy screen use?
  • Can you think of a celebrity that you admire that does not use social media much?
  • What do you think of Benioff's idea of regulating social media like cigarettes?
  • Do you think it is the company’s responsibility to design technology to be less addictive, or do you thi nk it should only be up to the user?