Tech companies use ‘persuasive technologies’ that harm children, psychologists say

Image: Flickr/Lucélia Ribeiro
Aug. 9 (UPI) — A group of psychologists has urged the American Psychological Association to take a stand against the use of “manipulative psychological techniques” to get children addicted to digital devices.In a letter sent to APA President Dr. Jessica Henderson-Daniel on Wednesday, more than 50 psychologists said the use of psychology to design “persuasive technologies” — described as digital devices and apps to influence human thoughts and behavior — causes damage to children’s health, emotional well-being and academic success without their parent’s knowledge.

“Parents have no idea that psychology — a discipline associated with healing — is being used to lure kids into a life spent with digital devices that pose risks to their well-being,” said Richard Freed, psychologist and author of “Wired Child: Reclaiming Childhood in a Digital Age.”

“We call on the APA to lead the way in ensuring that our profession is used for good, not hijacked to earn profits for Big Tech.”

The technologies developed by psychologists working for tech companies reprograms children’s brains to increase the time they spend on digital devices, the group says.The letter quotes neuroscientist Ramsay Brown, who recently told Time magazine: “Your kid is not weak-willed because he can’t get off his phone …. Your kid’s brain is being engineered to get him to stay on his phone.”

That ends up having a wide range of effects on children. Notably was a recent study from the National Bureau of Economic Research that found many young men in the United States are choosing to play video games rather than join the workforce.

For young women, a recent study found between increased social media use and higher rates of depression and suicide.

And parents have an increasingly difficult time competing with the effectiveness of persuasive technologies, according to a recent APA poll that found that almost half of parents “say that regulating their child’s screen time is a constant battle.”

Among the recommendations the group sent to to the APA was the issuing of a public statement against the use of persuasive technologies with harmful side effects and more transparency from psychologists and the tech industry regarding persuasive technologies.


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