A New Technology Revolution?

A New Technology Revolution? 

Six year olds don't need messaging apps or starter social media. Enough said. And, at long last, lots of people are starting to say it.

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Last week, a coalition of health experts decided it was high time to make their voices heard. Organized by the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, an army of pediatricians and mental health experts added their names to a letter addressed to Facebook. At issue: FB Messenger Kids, a service that allows kids to send text and  images to recipients who are pre-vetted by parents. But really at issue is the need for access to this platform at increasingly young ages. Basically, the folks who signed the letter claim that this app is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. They ring alarm bells about privacy issues, tech addiction, and the irresponsibility of FB to prioritize luring in future users over the health and wellness of kids.

This week, we have a new coalition sounding similar bells. But these aren’t docs or health care providers – these are the inventors of the technology itself. The Center for Human Technology has launched a campaign called The Truth About Tech. Together with Common Sense Media, these former Google and FB employees want to shine a light on the similarities between opiates and technology: both super-addictive (my metaphor, not theirs). What’s worse is that they claim the tech is designed to work this way. I heard a great interview with founder Tristan Harris who described the ethics in detail. But if the moral compass argument doesn’t prevail, then Harris offers up that big tech companies stand to make even more money in helping users use their platforms sparingly. And if anything speaks louder than words, it’s money.

The confluence of these two movements is pretty heartening. To me, it means that rather than collectively hitting our heads against the wall as our kids (and our spouses and ourselves, too) are subsumed by the lure of technology, we can do something about it. As many have written over the years – and particularly over the past few days – there is much to be celebrated in that phone of yours: it provides services and human connections that were unthinkable when we were kids. But there’s also much to be wary of, and it’s high time we united our voices to do something about it.