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Apple shareholders push for study of phone addiction in children (bloomberg.com)
439 points by anigbrowl 11 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 256 comments



I think it's worth taking a look at the parental controls that Nintendo put in for the Switch. They have a video here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=03bAayBtcb0

I think it's worth watching, if for no other reason than to see Bowser & Bowser Jr..

iOS app link: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/id1190074407 Play store link: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.nintendo.z...

For me, the only annoyance is that the controls apply to the entire console, not to individual users of the console. But, that makes sense as things are today, since I don't think there's any way to authenticate individual users every time someone wants to use the console. Also, that may conflict with the way that games stay "running" most of the time, even when you come back to the console later.


IMO the biggest difference is the style of games. Switch games are much more comprehensive like Zelda.

iPad games are geared towards button mashing and showing ads for other games that do the exact same thing.

A switch game will be $30-60. An iPad game will be “free”. Subjecting your kids to advertising driven games which aim to have them play much as possible to drive revenues is noticeably different. I’ve taken away the iPad entirely after seeing how my kids respond to it.

Contrast it with the WiiU or Switch that we’ve had and it’s a totally different experience. Right now I TRUST Nintendo with the game experience that’s best for my kids.


To nuance the point, “free” and non kid friendly games are coming to the switch.

The first in-app based game I see is the karaoke one, which is free to download and you pay for eaxh song. That’s reasonable, I’m just noting the mechanism is there.

Then a game like Senran Kagura, centered on boobs (lityeraly, the main gimmick is vibrations from “massages”) also came to the switch, and I can’t remember any IP of this kind up until now on a Nintendo console.

For better or worse, the current Nintendo is much more open and less risk averse than before.


Then a game like Senran Kagura (..) and I can’t remember any IP of this kind up until now on a Nintendo console.

You mean, except the two Senran Kagura games which have already been released for the 3DS?


Just because free ad-driven games are unsuited for kids, doesn‘t mean the iPad as a whole is unsuitable for kids.

Watching my kids (4 & 5) play monument valley is a joy. The game costs 5€ and is absolutely worth it.


The early educational games were great. Now that they've gotten a little bit older (9 and 7) is where I'm seeing the problem.


What kinds of games or things would you like to see for that age range?

What kind of research have you done on what's available?

I'm genuinely curious as to what's out there and who's working on things like this.


In general or for iOS?

Right now from WiiU to Switch my impression has been that the entire platform is “kid first”. Online play is chat minimal with only some prescripted text. Friendly characters from the Mario universe with great games built around them like Mario Kart, Mario 3D World or Zelda.

With Zelda I like that my 9 year old is slowly working his way through things that are hard. He’s talking to friends at school about how to work through tougher parts or find secrets.

Probably the thing that I wish was available more than anything was an equivalent to Nintendo Power magazines. Being able to let them read, find secrets, learn about other games, etc from something where I don’t need to worry about parental controls or click to buys would be a relief.

I like giving them to opportunity to find ways through something that is hard but fun. I just don’t want to have to feel like I have to keep looking over their shoulder.


I don't have kids so I haven't looked into it, but I assumed there would be more games with educational value on iOS than Nintendo.

Is curating your kid's apps to only allow such games an option?


What's the point though?

The app store is 99% low quality garbage. Sure, you can spend your time and effort searching out the 4-5 high quality gems that may exist and configuring the ipad but it's 10x easier just to buy a Nintendo game and call it a day. Nintendo's first party games are almost always very fun, always high quality, ad free, and always(?) kid friendly. When you buy, for example, a Zelda, Mario, or Kirby title you know exactly what you are going to get. Not all entertainment needs to be "educational" and we are talking about entertainment here.


Maybe "educational" isn't the right word, but as a kid I mostly played games that, in retrospect, had some sort of value beyond pure entertainment (Sim City, The Incredible Machine, etc)

Surely there are blogger parents who do the work to find decent games for kids, educational or otherwise?


You're exaggerating. Of course there's a lot of garbage and Apple could do a better job of curating and surfacing the highlights, though their recent app store redesign is a step in the right direction. However it's easy to find countless high quality, worthwhile and affordable games - from platform exclusives and indie hits to popular titles like Civ VI, 80 Days or The Witness.


The Switch offers digital downloads too, some of which are pretty low-quality (and the number of these will only increase this year).


"games with educational value"

Unfortunately that's a near non-sequitur. For example a "math game" may actually be a crappy button smashing experience that's made to look "educational" in the store. Etc.


You know what's worse than what you describe? Educational games, i.e. schoolwork disguised (usually poorly) as a video game. No one is getting fooled by that.

As for good games with educational value, I'd point to obvious examples like Kerbal Space Program (makes 12 years old learn the math behind rocketry and orbital dynamics), Minecraft (can make kids learn to program), Zachtronics games like SpaceChem or Shenzhen I/O, and ultimately any narrative-heavy game as a good way for kids from non-English-speaking countries to learn English.


"...what's worse than what you describe? Educational games, i.e. schoolwork disguised (usually poorly) as a video game."

Yeah, basically anything in that category except perhaps for rote memorization of multiplication tables is better done by a human teacher and static quality educational materials.

"Kerbal Space Program (makes 12 years old learn the math behind rocketry and orbital dynamics),"

With a) MSc in physics b) two kids in school c) over 700 hours spent personally in Kerbal I disagree. It does not really teach math and claiming it does is delusional. However, it does give a pretty intuitive introduction into orbital dynamics. It's a fun game. And there's nothing wrong in that category! Fun and games are as important as learning, but these two categories are complementary. Pretending one is the other does not really help anyone.

It's confounding to confuse the two as a parent who has to consider how the kids spend their time (i.e how screen time is rationed). If my kids want to play Kerbal, it's rationed from the "digital games" category and not "educational". For me "educational and character building" category includes stuff like 3D modeling, playing and mixing music, creating stop motion animation, etc. The latter they can do as much as they like.


I wrote "makes 12 years old learn the math" not to imply KSP teaches math by itself, but to observe that it motivates kids to go and learn the math on their own, and to enjoy it.

If you take a look at the community around KSP, you'll find plenty of kids learning math and physics to better understand what their spacecrafts are doing and how to make better ones.

Reminds me of how I learned trigonometry myself - I hated it at school, but learned it immediately - along with basic matrix/vector linear algebra - once I needed it to rotate stuff in a game I was writing.

This brings me to my core issue with edutainment - fake problems. Bite-sized issues designed to "teach" a kid a particular concept, which can be immediately recognized for what they are - school after school. Fake problems are not fun. Meaningful problems - those working within the context of a game world that stands on its own, like "wtf is ∆v, how does it work and how do I ballpark the amount of it in my rocket" - those are fun and motivating.


I'd put Civ5 and Portal into the "accidentally educational" category too. Funnily enough you could give your kids Ubuntu and they could play all these games and learn a little about Linux too.


Having watched my kid build bizarre red-stone power contraptions in minecraft, picking up the basics of logic circuits along the way, I disagree.


That's still no replacement for basic formal mathematics and linguistic skills, such as how to craft a good text. I value my kids learning the multiplication tables and understanding fundamental geometric concepts. Universe is built on math and the society is built on math and writing. I'm not denying Kerbal and Minecraft are stimulating for kids but no way can they replace the fundamentals. In the general sense. If we categorize kids time into 'education' and playtime ( both of which are important!) I would categorize minecraft and kerbal into the play section.


You can disable the App Store in iOS as well, if I were a parent, I would choose a few good games but disable the App Store for my kid's devices.


There are plenty of really great pay-once ad-free games for kids on iOS.


While there are obvious concerns about the effects of spending too much time playing video games, it doesn't seem like people are focusing much on the possible psychological impact of the kind of surveillance that modern technology affords parents. Kids need some privacy to explore and express themselves, and I'm worried that as we try to let parents take their natural risk aversion to further and further extremes, we're going to hamper that.


Limiting device usage electronically or physically is a far cry away from snooping on your kids’ browsing or messaging histories. As far as intrusions go, this is a level 0.

As a kid, we were limited by technology, so no limits were needed (SMB just wasn’t that replayable, and the TI/99 was even worse). Perhaps the solution to creativity here is to simply give your kids older computers to play with.


If my parents had limited my amount of time spent using a computer or paying video games, I would never have gone down the path that led me to here.

I have extended family who have done this, and the difference is palpable.


Me too, but back then, computers required much more intellectual work to get some satisfaction out of them. Today, you can just consume intensively on an iPad, and never learn anything about computers.


I have a childhood friend who played as much on the computer as I did. He even wrote some simple games himself (as I did) but he is not a software developer now and I am. You can give hundred kids lego technic and most of them won't become engineers.


But some will. And not all those that play with them creatively will become engineers. Also, some kids who just consume iPad content will become programmers, but not because of the device. Some kid who never saw a computer before will also be men one.

That’s just how statistics work.


Not everyone who is capable of becoming an engineer sees it as something they actually want to spend their lives doing but the skills children develop with toys like Technic are still valuable and have applications beyond just engineering.


That doesn't mean he learned nothing, or that his experience was detrimental.

I'm simply concerned about the collective fear parents have of their own children's liberty.


Many kids act very badly when allowed unlimited play. Aggressive, acts very annoying whenever does not have tablet, refuses to put it down even for homework or any kind of familly activity.

Putting predictable enforced limits goes long way to stop that. It just works and still allows them game time. People tend to relax those rules as kids grow and problems disappear.

I knew multiple people who had trouble later in school because of inability to not play till morning before major test. You really want your child to be able to stop game after a while of playing.


Structure and control.

My wife and I foster, so we've spent time parenting a number of children and all do so much better when they have structure and control over their lives. Kids act up when they can't figure out what's going to happen next. But, if you're consistent and structured they are able to relax and get comfort out of knowing what their day will be like. Get into daily routines and do the same things (as much as possible depending on schedule) day in and day out (in the same order if you have toddlers).

Children also need control. Let them pick out their clothes. Let them decide on the sheets for their bed. Give them money to buy their school supplies. Things like that. Make sure they know that you're there to answer questions, but let them succeed ... and fail. But be there.


Plus one on this. Telling kids beforehand how long they can play helps a lot.

My kids get aggressive only if I walk in the room, realise they have been watching videos for far too long, and try to take it away. Kind of understandable, if you imagine from their perspective.


If you're the one forcing them to stop, does that really teach them to stop on their own?


Yes overtime it does. First step is to get used to stop without major temper tamtrum. And clear rules set in advance work much better then seemingly random attempts to remove device when parent feel like it.

They get used to stop playing, they are forced not to treat game as number one priority in life and because they find other things to do with time. And maybe also because they cease to feel entitled to tablet all the time.

It prevents them into getting into habit. And makes it harder to join social groups where your game score is you social standing (thus feeding addiction via social pressure).


> They get used to stop playing, they are forced not to treat game as number one priority in life and because they find other things to do with time.

Basically, they're forced to learn to never immerse themselves in any activity. I'm not sure it's a good thing to ask for.

At least the clear and predictable rules you describe help some. The kid will know in advance not to immerse themselves, because there isn't enough time. Beats the hell getting into an activity, and then being suddenly dragged out of it.


> Basically, they're forced to learn to never immerse themselves in any activity. I'm not sure it's a good thing to ask for.

No, inability to play computer game whole day every day at age of seven will not break your ability to immerse into activity.

Being immersed so much that you don't control yourself and act badly is issue parents need to deal with. If they don't, the older the kid grows the more consequences it has on his or her life. So, yes, it is a good thing.

Even if we are assuming there will be no long term consequences, if the toy causes enough bullshit for the rest familly, parents are entitled to limit it for their own or siblings sake.


Do you ever enjoy a good book? Like really enjoy, immersed in the created world or in the depth of facts presented, reading it possibly until late hours in the night? Imagine doing this, and me coming to you out of the blue and taking the book away in the middle of a plot twist, for no reason whatsoever. Then imagine not being able to ever enjoy a book like that.

That's what we're talking about doing to kids. Kids may not be as smart as adults, but they have feelings and imagination just as much, if not even more than us. Hell, I remember how I myself hated being randomly interrupted at early-teenage years.

> Being immersed so much that you don't control yourself and act badly is issue parents need to deal with.

I'd vote for dealing with it by not putting the kid in that position in the first place. It would be totally understandable of an adult to "behave badly" if the event we're describing happened to them.

> if the toy causes enough bullshit for the rest familly, parents are entitled to limit it for their own or siblings sake

Parents are entitled to everything, but it would be wise of them to realize that any bullshit caused by a toy is of their own making.


The alternative is horrifying if you have kids. Tablets are addictive even to adults. Plus their eyes, if they are under 7 or 8, aren’t really ready for it. Let them go all out on legos instead.


I mean....I work as a professional C++ programmer in the games industry, and until I was about 12-14, my computer time was limited to 1 hour a day during the week days, 2 hours a day during the weekend. But then I would spend all my other free time reading, and I would read programming books and game guides instead. I have "experienced" many games by reading their game guides from start to finish, without having actually played the game itself(with such strict time limit it wasn't a good investment of time in my mind). I got my first programming book when I was 9 or 10(Visual Basic for Kids) and I would write out the code in my notebook first, check for errors with the book, and then type it in during my alloted time.

Was it restrictive? Incredibly so. But maybe I wouldn't be doing what I do today if it was any different - if my computer access was unlimited and "common" - because it was so restricted I spent an inordinate amount of time preparing for each use which obviously had effects on my entire career later on.


I mean, I represent the opposite story.

My parents didn't really support my computer endeavors (which distracted from my academics), but on the laptops and PCs I scrounged my computer time was unlimited. Again, not without a great gnashing of teeth and frequent complaints from my parents, but kids will find a way... I recall hours and hours programming graphing calculators (and teachers seizing my calculator for programming in classes not related to math [and even some related])

I learned by spending inordinate amounts of time trying, throwing everything at the wall and seeing what sticks, from Assembly to Game Maker-like programs to C via SDCC for my little graphing calculator. There was little preparation and very few books, and just insane amounts of time on computers.

I had "imposter syndrome" while I was learning, so I always spent time trying to do things "how the professionals" did. I remember trying TDD while I was still in early high school and worshipping XML with nicely made schemas and codegen for my RPC libraries because I thought that's what "real programmers" did. All the time spent doing things like that shaped my ability to pick and choose what "works" and what doesn't in so many other applications today

And as a result today I'm a professional developer who never went to college.

But maybe I wouldn't be doing what I do today if it was any different - if my computer access wasn't unlimited and "common" - because it was so unrestricted I spent an inordinate amount of time programming, which obviously had effects on my entire career later on ;)


Did you make it through? Yes.

Be wary of survivor bias. Not everyone is like you, and not every similar situation is the same.

I grew from my free experience with computers, and I hope every child can have that opportunity.


Of course, it was just an anecdote :-)


It's hard to draw vast conclusions from a few anecdotes.

My parents limited video game time, and I think they were right to do so. I still managed to become a (fairly skilled, I hope) software developer.


It sucks when conclusions are drawn that ignore anecdotes.

I am not totally against parents controlling their children's behavior, but I am wary of how trivial it is to take that to the extreme, without even realizing it, because of a collective fear that is promoted by those around you.

I am quite certain that measures of control over my "computer use" would have been detrimental. It's important to not throw that aside in discussions like this.


I'm not saying strict controls are always the right thing, I just wanted to provide a counterpoint. I agree that balance is important and that not all situations are alike.


My daughter has an Android tablet. For a while it was vanilla Android until I realized she was downloading an app, tapping the initial ad on the app, which lead to another app. Repeat ad nauseam until she couldn't install anything else. She isn't able to distinguish quality of apps, and was installing apps that were one giant copyright violation (My little Ponies, Mickey Mouse, and a Minion, all in the same app!).

For the life of me I can't figure out how these apps make money. They're like flotsam in the Google App store, so they're making money somehow. For all I know they turn on the microphone and send the data to a rogue organization.

This is very different to when I grew up. I had to write my games in Basic (I got them in the back of a catalog!) and I learned how to modify them. I plan on giving her free use of any of my Raspberry Pis, Arduinos, and if she shows interest in those big, expensive RGB LED matrices, I'll buy those for her. She can go nuts with those!


We restricted our kids computer time and it hasn't stopped them entering the industry.


Did they get to install Linux during their early teenage years?

How much restriction?

What aspects of "the industry"?

What sort of experiences might they have missed? Will you ever know?


What sort of experiences might they have missed? Will you ever know?

Well, I know what activities didn't get crowded out by unfettered access to a computer.

It wasn't about a monastic existence, it was just keeping things in balance.


I don't think that's so certain. My parents did limit the amount of time we could spend playing video games (IIRC two hours a day) and I still ended up here.


I wonder how much of this has to do with lack of reexamination on the parents' part. Limiting 6 year olds to 30 minutes a day (or whatever) is fine - the same limitation is less appropriate for a 10 year old and even less appropriate for a teen.

It makes the most sense to me to expand time to use in adolescence, and what can be used in teenage years.


Mine tried, but then bypassing those restrictions became just another challenge.


I'm not really concerned about the time limit function. But the video also says that it gives you a "report" of how much time your kids are spending on each game, and I think that may go too far.

Keep in mind that this isn't just about how good parents can misuse technology in raising their kids. I think people tend to think of "parents" as a group as something different from the individual parents they've actually encountered. A lot of parents are actually pretty terrible, and when we talk about "giving parents tools" we need to keep in mind that we're also empowering those parents.

So while the tendency might be to imagine some wholesome mom who just wants to know her kid isn't playing Murder-Fuck 2018, we should also remember the homophobic dad worried about his son playing a My Little Pony game.


I really can't understand this comment, the homophobic dad just wouldn't buy my little pony in the first place.


Kids have other ways of obtaining games than their parents buying them. And most kids have more than one parent. And that one example prevents you from understanding my entire comment?


With parental controls, kids do not have other ways of obtaining games, unless it's something like a browser game, and then it won't be recorded either.

So your comment seems to be based on an impossible premise.


The point is valid though in general, even if not in a specific case of a non-rooted iPad.

Imagine a similar parental control solution employed on an Android tablet, or a Windows PC. Your kid will learn how to sideload games from friends at school. Where there's a will, there's a way.


A. As far as I can tell, the Switch parental controls let you set age rating categories, not restrict the device to only specific games.

B. How would that be an argument against my main point, that new technology is giving parents too much control over their kids' lives?


> With parental controls, kids do not have other ways of obtaining games ...

Still possible outside the home or at school. Borrowing a device from the next door neighbor who could care less about parental controls is one way for kids who are intent on playing a game their peers are raving about.

Then there is the option of using an older (teenage) sibling's device for the same purpose if left lying around in the house.


Right. In which case the monitoring wouldn't work either.


The new Black Mirror season had an episode about this very concept called Arkangel https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arkangel_(Black_Mirror)

This episode explores some of the risks that monitoring and censoring children can have on their development and also the effect it can have on the parents themselves.


Sometimes I wonder if it isn't our fiction which forms and drives our expectations about what our future should look like.

There are actually people who consider a story like Minority Report not as a cautionary tale but rather as a challenge along the lines of "They just did it wrong in fiction, we can do it better in reality!".

Just like I'm pretty sure there are quite a few parents out there who would watch that BM episode and go "I'd totally put such an implant into my child but I'd do xyz different!".


That's an old theme. See e.g. the fairy tale Rapunzel.


Could you elaborate? I fail to see the connection.


I suppose it's a sort of shallow reference to keeping a child locked up in a tower away from the world. Not sure it's a great comparison since the woman raising Rapunzel disowns her when she discovers she's been sleeping with a prince, and blinds him. But they find each other by her voice, her tears heal his eyes, and he takes her back to his kingdom. So I guess the moral is if you keep your innocent child locked away from the world the only people who will make an effort to find them are gallant princes.


> So I guess the moral is if you keep your innocent child locked away from the world the only people who will make an effort to find them are gallant princes.

The moral sounds to me more like: if you keep your innocent child locked away from the world, you might just create a cure for blindness.


I was delighted to find out Nintendo took the care to approach this issue the way they did.

If I had children, I would definitely buy a Nintendo Switch for them because of their focus in this aspect. Since I don't have any, I bought the Switch for myself instead. =)


I bought the switch for my 6 year old son for Christmas, his first console, because it was geared for younger kids and had these controls. <s>Unfortunately</s> it seems most of the games are really still aimed at 10+, so I've had to start playing the games with him.


My 7 year old finished Zelda several times without a lot of help (mostly early on we helped to show how to cook, etc) ... I do recommend Super Mario odyssey or Lego City though - may be more age appropriate.


Odyssey is what we just started playing, the two player is perfect because he can just control the hat, and we work together. He's just never played many video games before, apart from some Roblox. Lego is what I probably should have gotten. I bought the Pokemon game because he liked the fighting, but there's way more to it than I thought.


The Pokémon game is fun but yes, I’ve heard a lot of screaming over it :)


Its also the most pro-social council out there and its just fantastic all around. Its like they took all the greatness that was budgeted for the WiiU and pushed it off on the Switch.


> For me, the only annoyance is that the controls apply to the entire console, not to individual users of the console.

You might consider it an "annoyance" for quite a few other people it's simply yet another sign of Nintendo being stuck somewhere a decade ago.

Every other console manages to allow parental controls on the account level, in addition to having login authentification.

But with the Switch there's nothing like this, in that regard, the "console wide parental controls" feel more like the result of not having individual user login authentification than being an actual "feature".

The lack of login authentication also comes with its very own set of issues: Like Kids playing on their parent's accounts, overwriting their savegame progress or vice versa.


Silent FaceID can be used to auth every X mins with as a config tbh. Could even work as a blacklist


Wanted to try, but it's not available in the Chinese app store for both iPhone and iPad


I think this is a very good sign.

It is my hope that Apple is able to pioneer tools which make it possible to interrupt addiction forming (dark) patterns.

Addressing this on the device/os level (vs possibly legislation) could be very effective.

Right now this is a lawless territory and creating + exploiting addiction at the cost of depleting millions of people’s cognitive resources as free is very profitable.

The long term costs associated with this profit are still to be seen but I am sure they exist.


The real result will be that kids will be educated by devices instead being educated by their parents.


... not necessarily a bad thing, if approached thoughtfully -- computers and smartphones are such fundamental parts of everyday life, it makes sense that an element of didacticism is embedded in how they're designed.


If by “educated by” you mean “have their relationship with intentionally induced addiction managed by”, then we’re on the same page.

If we can agree that tobacco and opioids are better kept away from children then we may asking why Facebook, instagram, Snapchat, addictively engineered games are not.

Of course we would also start thinking about sugar and caffeine :)


> educated by devices

Are you familiar with https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pharmakon_(philosophy)?

This concept – and Bernard Stiegler's work in general – could really help developers and hackers understand how technology actually affects people.


Sounds like a false dichotomy.


They should be pushing for a study on neck injury / muscle strain on smart phone use. Millennials and the next gen after are going to pay dearly from injuries from bending their necks/heads down for years and years looking at their phones.


Do you have a source for smartphone usage having any impact on neck or muscle strain, versus non-smartphone usage, and why it would disproportionately affect millennials?


Why is this guy getting downvoted simply for asking for evidence?

This is Hacker News. Raise the bar, people. Leave the baseless assertions and hearsay to Reddit. I expect citations in discussions here. In fact I just scrolled through this entire discussion and did not find A SINGLE LINK to outside evidence/data. How do you expect to debate anything with any validity, based on nothing but bullshit?


I didn't down vote, but I took the gp to be an expression of opinion rather than a statement of fact, and neck pain from phone use being something I can relate to. Merely asking for sources can be distracting when discussing opinions.

I think a more cogent response would be "How is smart phone use different than reading a paper or having ones nose buried in a book?" which of course isn't new, but the same physical movement.


Well at least you're making a rational argument!


Indeed, intelligent people can debate in good faith[1], without battering one another with sources. Since a source (or out of context snippet) can be found to support nearly any assertion, sources are not the end all. Often times, source ladden arguments devolve to a debate of source validity and authoritativeness. Which to me, is boring.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Principle_of_charity


I suppose there should be a balance of source-citation, with sources preferred which establish a broadly-accepted concordance (such as a meta-study of studies) instead of a single study (in which case you would be correct).

To me, rational arguments are the leaps between facts established by evidence, so both are necessary to some degree.

In online conversations devoid of any citation, things seem to far too often veer into wild speculation, unsubstantiated opinion/belief, and most egregious, ad hominem/stereotyping/etc.

I was unaware of the Principle of Charity, thanks for educating me!


That is an easy one to answer: baby boomers, gen-x, and anyone over ~33 years old as of now... they didn't have cell phones or tablets growing up.

But I think what you are getting at is you want data supporting the emergence of a correlation in this new, younger cohort. I'd argue that a close proxy is the introduction of the PC workstation in the 70's and 80's and the "ergonomics" industry that resulted. Seems pretty easy to assume the same dynamics are at play again.

"The result of this study showed that prolonged use of smartphones could negatively affect both, posture and respiratory function." [0]

There is negative financial incentive for the device producers (Apple, Samsung, Microsoft, etc) if it is discovered that their products are harmful to consumer health. [1]

As for data confirming emergence of harm caused by smartphone/tablet, it is a easy google search to see professionals at top research universities and hospitals provide anecdotal evidence that there is a correlation. [2][3]

From personal experience, a talk with a professional in Physical Therapy or Occupation Therapy will yield their first hand experience with the identification of cell phone/tablet (and laptop) use as the source of the physical stressor, and the subsequent mitigation (through behavioral (use it less) and environmental (use ergonomically) change) as its cure.

[0] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4756000/

[1] http://www.crn.com/news/mobility/300089826/apple-ceo-tim-coo...

[2] https://health.usnews.com/health-news/family-health/pain/art...

[3] https://www.google.com/search?client=safari&rls=en&q=is+smar...

*edited for more linkz


Dear God, that [0] link is horrendous. I might be biased because I come from a harder science, but every metric they measure overlap in the stddev within the control and the test group. The best is peak expiratory flow (ie., peak breath flow), but even those overlap from the min of one to the max of the other. I probably doesn't help that there are 25 subjects per group.


There are widely available sources and studies on the subject of how bad posture is destructive to the human skeleton...


... And yet you took the opportunity to cite none of it. I know about the studies of sitting for long periods...


I didn't cite any because - correct me if I'm wrong - the issue of how bad posture affects the human skeleton is a solved problem, i.e. it's basic common knowledge that can easily be found online or discussed with a medical doctor.

I don't think it's necessary to go all the way and research citations to disprove claims that are just challenging basic common sense without any argument in their support, e.g. I don't really go to great lengths to use data to disprove claims related to astrology.


How is it different from the generations before that read books?


I've recently made an active effort to combat this — now I mind my posture almost obsessively.


What have you done, or what change have you made to keep posture in mind?


Started doing back-strengthening workouts, and try to stand a lot more during the day at work.

Also don't let myself use my phone while walking, as that was a big issue for a while.


Practicing alignment-based hatha yoga has helped me be more mindful of my posture in my daily life.


Also interested as someone with a bad neck.


In a nutshell, keep your spine straight, as if a string were attached to your head, pulling you up. Also do exercises that strengthen your back muscles, and core -- to make it easier to avoid slouching. A good physical therapist can really help -- see if your health plan covers it.


Full disclosure: I work for a company called DnsLearning (although we are rebranding to StudyCity)

Our system is simple, you point your child's device at a DNS server then add various accounts to supported educational sites like Khan Academy, Duolingo, Prodigy Math, etc. Our server detects when your child earns points on these platforms and disables access to non-educational (junk) sites until they earn X points to unlock Y time. Most of our user-base has noticed their kids now fully understand the value of their time instead of being stuck in a zombie-like YouTube spell of watching 5 hours of minecraft videos recommended next.


That is so cool! Love that idea...help parents to parent by teaching kids how to use things in moderation


I'd rather see this implemented in a way that didn't involve a third party collecting data about children.


We allow customers to decide how long their data is retained


Your company doesn't appear to have a privacy policy or anything similar on the website, assuming that site is at dnslearning.org. How are you monetizing this? What kind of data are you collecting, and what are you doing with it?


Just add /privacy to the url.

I can't include the full url here because my posts don't show up. I assume because I posted about it too much or some vast right/left wing conspiracy against my startup :)


That privacy policy tells me absolutely nothing about the data your service collects from the people who use it, and very little about anything else either for that matter.

It's also incomplete. No offense, but it honestly looks like someone tried to copy and paste a privacy policy from somewhere else, but didn't get the whole thing. It ends at "Security", with nothing beneath - not that any of what was above provided much information to begin with.


Good points, we will make it more clear. Feel free to email us to discuss in detail. I see from your comment history your concern about privacy and don't want to lose a user because of a misunderstanding about our intentions.

Note here is a post from way back when I asked if anyone did what I wanted for my child.

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=9299697


I mean, I think a study of iPhone addiction in general would be a good thing. Adults definitely know they are dependent on their devices, but it would be interesting to see if any long-term effects can be extrapolated. Moreso I'd just like to see any of the negative effects people claim are more than anecdotal.


But as always, what is the cause and what is the consequence. One could totally argue that it's the original person's behavior that push them into "addictions", and the opposite, or both at the same time in mutual reinforcement.


For the record, these shareholders seem to control about 0.2% of apple stock.


Also consider that most big players in the game have very little incentive to reduce screen-time in a meaningful way. The more time spent on devices consuming media the more they sell from their App store.


It may be a big opportunity for Apple. After all most of their income comes from device sales, not from app store. Offering tools for parents which make them feel good, might cause them to spend the extra $100-200 per kid and get them iPhone instead of cheaper Android device.

Of course others could follow with similar features and this would remove the possible advantage Apple had, leaving them with no advantage and reduced app store revenue. Or if others don't follow, this might drive developers to other platforms.


While even the biggest cynic in me believes that there's a lot of truth in this, there's also something to be said about overall customer satisfaction, leading to better sales.

Don't forget that for any device that a child owns, the likelihood is the parent is the customer, and it's their repeat purchases that probably make the biggest difference.


I really hope that this doesn't get caught up in/confused with the moral panic of teenage phone use—which is 99% just "teenagers want to be socializing 100% of the time" and has nothing to do with the medium they use to do that.


I hope the App Store’s ‘Today’ (Home screen) content is examined. Apple “editors” shill absolute garbage. An “app” and “game of the day” ensures they have to regularly dumpster dive.


I wish iOS had a way to limit time by app. Or even just a daily limit. Is there any way to do this today?

Or just show # of minutes by app, each day -- to observe where time is being spent... even for adults!


You could go to battery settings; if you tap the clock button and set it to 24hrs you can see how long the app has been on-screen. It's not meant for the purpose you mention, but it's something! :)


https://freedom.to/ is the best/only one I have found. It's meh but it works.


I have a subscription to this but I'm not gonna renew it because I don't like having to schedule my blocked and unblocked hours.

I just want to be able to set a daily or weekly budget of hours and then once I've used my hours up I get blocked.


hopefully this year Rescue Time will solve this.

this one seems very good: Moment – Screen Time Tracker by Kevin Holesh

there are a few apps listed here: https://www.tomsguide.com/us/best-parental-control-apps,revi...


I started Moment a few months ago. When I drive back from Tahoe it counts those 3.5 hours of Google Maps as active screen time. Which isn't wrong, just not helpful.


ask the dev ( who is very friendly ) to add a list of apps to filter out ;-)


The letter in question is here: https://thinkdifferentlyaboutkids.com

Note that, when you first go there, a "Terma & Conditions" popup appears once the page finishes loading. But, I think that requires JavaScript in order to trigger. Also, at least in Safari, reader mode was able to show the letter's contents without having to click through (or around) the T&C popup.


I'm sure Apple can create some more granular controls to restrict certain apps, but it's probably going to hurt CalSTRS.

I took a look at their 13F filing and some of their holdings include Google, Facebook and Twitter. They should probably start with divesting that if they feel really strongly about this.


I would think this is Jana's move and CalSTRS is just a pawn. Rosenstein is scrappy and happy to stir the pot to invoke a stock price spike (see PetSmart sale and Whole Foods).


Jana is raising a fund for activist socially responsible investing, so that's clearly their motivation [1]. CalSTRS is $1.3B of the combined $2B so I doubt they're "just a pawn".

[1] https://www.wsj.com/articles/wall-street-fighters-do-gooders...


I sometimes wonder how much of this is actually on the parents as well? I see some of my co-workers handing phones with some games to distract their child. Previously we had smaller toys - plastic etc, now it seems phones are an easier go to medium.


15 years ago it was called "VCR parenting" now we call it "tablet parenting" - People live hard and complex lives, so I'm not going to make judgment on a single parent trying to provide for their kids being unable to be a full-time entertainer as well. The good news is technology and apps are making it easier for parents to be better with less effort (which may sound harsh but is how life gets better overall)


I agree that I rather hand my kids a tablet or smartphone then putting them in front of a TV or game console.

What I sometimes miss from the conversation is that there is a lot of good things one can do with such device...and yes, also some bad ones...just like with a scissors or a lighter.

It’s on parents to teach their kids how the world functions and how to integrate into it...always has, always will!

And the latest craze (is this case smartphones) is simply that...the latest thing a contemporary human has to learn how to use.

And our kids will have to teach their kids one day how to use (and moderate personal use of) whatever the latest craze they have then.


I generally agree about tablets vs. TV -- except it's easy to find some terrible content on YouTube very quickly. Don't underestimate how impressionable kids are--even teens--by some cool YouTube stars who set bad examples.


Which begs the question: If the interactions with the tablet boil down to just passively consuming content, like on YouTube, are they really that different to TVs?

As enjoyable as YouTube and similar streaming services are, they are pretty much still TVs, just with millions upon millions of different channels to chose from.


I think TV is higher quality than what kids watch on YouTube. I know, there's plenty of trash on TV but at least there isn't "Elsagate-type content," surprise egg openings, toy reviews, and other generally "unsettling/shocking/scary" content.


YouTube also caters to a shorter-attention-span viewer than TV. After getting hooked on YouTube, it's hard(er) for kids to sit through a 22 or 45 minute TV show.


Yeah...I think the generalization of smart phones being bad is the issue here.

As I pointed out in another comment I think we need to be more nuanced...I agree that YouTube is mostly just like TV with infinite channels...luckily it’s not the only App though...just think of the fun kids can have with google search or Wikipedia.


>I agree that I rather hand my kids a tablet or smartphone then putting them in front of a TV or game console.

Is an actual computer not an option?


That depends on age...handing a 4 year old a laptop is probably not feasible


They make desktop computers, they make rugged laptops, or you can just teach your kid not to manhandle a normal laptop.


Big difference. VCRs aren't portable. Tablets allow a kid watching a low quality YouTube video at full volume while eating at a restaurant(!) - I've seen this multiple times. You can't pull a VCR out of your pocket mid conversation.


at a restaurant, in a plane, in the train... it's so freagin annoying. The implied social contract that you use such devices with headphones go out of the way the moment there's "omg a kid so cute" involved.

Kill me.


And you know you can't ask them politely to turn off the sound, the kind of parent that allows their kid to do that won't take kindly to such requests because Jonny is special and he just NEEDS to watch YouTube right now.


Somewhat related, if you want to see some thoughts on designing computing experiences to involve logging intentions / distractions better, check out Joel Edelman's talk "Is Anything Worth Maximizing" (2016) : http://nxhx.org/maximizing/

Related medium post: https://medium.com/what-to-build/is-anything-worth-maximizin...


My toddler is allowed about a half hour of cartoons on Youtube on the big TV per day. He's played with the iPad a few times in his life. Lots of books and Legos and physical toys in our house. Waiting for longitudinal studies to come out, not taking chances with the little brain.


Weird. I was expecting some wacko motion on the agenda for their annual shareholders' meeting but it is just a letter to management from two major investors.

I doubt anything will actually come of this.


It is interesting that Apple still doesn’t allow you to block specific apps.

I do mean specific apps, not a whole class of apps based on rating. I mean blocking just one app.


These discussions I've been seeing on this lately have been making me wonder if there's something odd about me. FB and Twitter simply do nothing for me, no dopamine at all. I get on once a week, maybe for 5 minutes, and then easily turn it off. I could give a damn about any of it really. Maybe I'm anti-social or have a chemical imbalance.


It is more likely that you find other activity exciting: exercise, food are two likely candidates, so are sexual gratifications. As you are active on Hacker News, I suspect that something code-related could be where you find fulfilment.

Most developers have strong opinions about the tool they use: key layout, editor, code & test patterns, project methodology. This is because they learn to use those effectively through neurological short-cuts. That makes not having them incredibly frustrating. Having rewards at different time scales (instant feedback from seeing your ideas on the screen, seeing code compile, error rates go down, a product being launched) can play the role that social media plays for people whose main activity is more conversational.

Or maybe, you just drink too much coffee.


That made me laugh. I guess I do get some dopamine from seeing an upvote on HN. But that's only because of the respect I have for the person most likely attached to that vote.

I am code-related, and I go home feeling empty if I walk away from a day without having built something. It can keep me up at night, actually. So there is something to that. I started working with wood at night, because it's not computer related and even with my poor skill it feels like an accomplishment. Exercise has a feeling of accomplishment for me as well. It's just surprising that the popular social medias can build up such a reward hit in people.


On android phones I have used before I can set password for each individual app, but you cannot do that on iPad or iPhone via iOS's parental control, that's too bad after I realized that, am I missing something?


1950's Can we have a study of Comic Book addiction in Children.

1960's Can we have a study of Television addiction in Children.

1970's Can we have a study of Dungeons and Dragons addiction in children

1980's Can we have a study of Console game addiction in Children.

1990's Can we have a study of Computer game addiction in Children.

2000's Can we have a study of Internet addiction in Children.

2010's Can we have a study of Facebook addiction in Children.

Oh would you please think of the children...


I've seen versions of several of these ruin people's lives very close to me. For example, I knew someone who played WOW to the detriment of his schooling, health, and social life. WOW is another product that is explicitly engineered to be addictive. The difference between then and now is cell phones and social media are consumed at a scale that affects almost everyone, to a degree that hasn't been seen before. It's worth studying whether this is something we should worry about or not.


I'm wary of the proposed solutions.

I spent very significant time during my childhood using computers. At the time, I would have had scarcely anything to prove that time was in any way "useful". I would have been hard pressed to convince others that my behavior was not detrimental.

Because I did spend so much time freely using computers, I learned how to use them. I learned about Linux, partitioning, bootloaders, programming, 3D modeling, etc.

My childhood learning experience happened over the course of more than a decade. It was full of totally pointless endeavors, a very significant part of it was just paying video games (which evolved into modding video games years later), and none of it would have happened with overbearing parents obsessed with the merits of my interests.


I would imagine a lot of us here who grew up in 90s would have the same experience. However, I do not see the same parallel to using a mobile device dominated by facebook, Snapchat, emojis and games. There is nothing to tinker with. I also don’t believe that mobile device use bridges to computer use — which could possibly cause a child to show interest in ‘how are these apps made?’


That's the problem with locked down devices.

It seems like no one cared that when we got powerful supercomputers that fit in our pockets, we couldn't use them like real computers.

These arbitrary limitations are the real problem. I don't think adding to the collective fear of children using computers will help change that. It's more likely to convince parents to choose more control and censorship.


I've got to say that I agree. We've been caring for three of our sisters kids recently. They are absolutely mesmerized by the ipads. To the point that you could drop a stack of dishes next to them and they would barely register.

Taking them to the museum is a exercise in frustration when you find that they ignore any chance to play with the dinosaur bones or look at the solar system models. Present them with a screen and they are captured. I was shocked to see them staring at a monitor that had a scrolling error message on it.. I don't think they are brain damaged, but you would not know it to see them anyware near a tv or monitor. It seems that they have little ability to process the world if it is not presented on a screen.


Do you believe that your experience is typical?


Even if I am in a slim minority, I think it is impossible to tell what children will find similar interests. A culture that keeps children away from those experiences affects everyone.


Is an (Android or Apple) tablet a computer though?


I fail to see how the technical minutia that differentiate desktop PCs, laptops, tablets and phones affects their ability to create dopamine-producing feedback loops on demand. Everything past that is just semantics between platforms and interaction styles.


They are severely arbitrarily limited ones.

That's a very related problem.


Even if we change nothing else, what needs to be done is we need to put serious time and money into addiction treatments. We have so many companies and scientists of varying stripe all researching exactly how to punch dopamine out of people's brains in the most efficient way, starting early on with food sciences and the tobacco industry, into today with social networks and casual games. We now know how to trick people into thinking literally ANYTHING is fun and to do it compulsively, but we haven't the slightest goddamn idea how to reverse that process for those who need it.


Don't forget porn. It's really new that everyone can find decades worth of porn, anytime. It's causing serious issues like erectile dysfunction and social problems. It's really taboo to talk about and people don't realise they're addicted to porn. Masturbation might be normal but constantly filling your mind with pornographic pictures and associating them to orgasms is proven to be detrimental.


Empirical evidence from unbiased sources to support this assertion, please


Soudns like a parenting mishap to me.


to be honest, this happened to me and i don’t blame my parents at all.

looking back on it, how were they to understand the difference between wow and everything else i played? it’s all the same to them.

we had frequent fights about how long i spent playing, when they’d ask me to do things in the middle of a raid (multi player coop thing; up to 40 players back then). in my head, it was incredibly important to me. now, i realise how stupid that was.

most people i think don’t realise how games can effect people mentally. to his day, 10 years later i still have dreams about my character sitting in a void, alone, asking me to come and play.

this is serious addiction, and you can’t blame parents for not understanding it.


Raiding at least taught teamwork... Some of the best people I knew in WoW ended up being very successful in their own right... for example the guy who was THE best raid-leader ever ended up managing a chain of stores


It might be and you would notice this is the norm with smartphones. Parents find it much easier to jam a smartphone in front of their child when out and about than to deal with their boredom.


>I've seen versions of several of these ruin people's lives very close to me.

Well your ones of anecdotes have sold me.


Anecdotes suggest the need for further study, which is exactly the topic: further study.


Yeah, no. The moment content creators realized they can engineer addiction by borrowing ideas from the gambling industry and often innovating in this area, we have a problem. Especially when more and more companies profit from 'habit forming'.

Read up on why Dong Nguyen pulled Flappy Bird off the app store and why Steve Jobs was a low-tech parent.

I agree, we shouldn't think of the children, we should probably think of the adults also.


> Read up on why Dong Nguyen pulled Flappy Bird off the app store

And yet, pandora was already out of the box, and that game spawned a million knockoffs


Exactly! If it wasn't a problem before then it won't be a problem today either. Nothing fallacious about that. The evolution of technology usually has very limited impact; WW1 and WW2 were barely more destructive than the wars that preceded them, after all, and WW3 will surely be no worse.

Edit: The above is sarcasm. It probably deserves the downvotes, but at least I want to make clear that I don't mean this stuff. The amount of psychological research, behavior tracking, and personalization that goes into keeping people "engaged" with their phones has never been seen before. It just seems so outlandish to argue that it won't be a problem because we turned out fine despite having TV as kids, nevermind that it only offered a handful of completely un-personalized TV channels and zero user tracking (apart from the tiny fraction with a Nielsen box). I just don't get it, especially here on HN where I'm sure many people have an idea of what's going on behind e.g. the Facebook feed.


And what's more, television certainly did drastically change people's attention spans, the nature of news and the public debate, etc. Compare the rhetoric of 19th-Century politicians with what you hear today.


Serious question, I don't know the answer to this: was the rhetoric of 19th century politicians different because people were more civil/thoughtful in general or just because there were (most likely) proportionally fewer people paying attention?

(Doubtless a bit of both, I suppose.)


http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/data/turnout.php

Voter turnout as a percentage of eligible voters was significantly higher, so I don't think that's it.


What's wrong with doing all of these studies? Aren't you glad we know about the harmful effects of tobacco smoke, UV light, radiation, too much sugar etc.?


If using a computer is addictive, what is the response?

I am concerned with any action that takes a child's privacy or liberty from them. I haven't heard a proposed solution that does neither, and most do both.

Someone with the absolute best intentions it's likely to take seriously harmful actions when privacy and liberty are disrespected.


My god, what if someone forced a child to eat their vegetables? Or read a book? Or clean their room?? What if someone said a kid can't go to their friend's late night unchaperoned party??

Real answer:

If using a computer is addictive, then parents and schools will manage kids' use of computers (most already do), and arm kids with that knowledge and help them learn to manage it themselves as they get older.

Sending a kid out into the world purposefully ignorant of risks they might face is a terrible idea. This is also why sex ed is important, BTW.


I understand where you are coming from, and don't disagree with you, but we aren't just talking about parents teaching their children.

It's perfectly reasonable for a parent to decide their child should spend time away from computers.

It's also very easy to take this reaction too far. Deciding what a child should do with a computer, or even that a child should not spend more than 10-20min. at a time using a computer seems reasonable, or even necessary to a lot of parents. Such a situation would have been extremely detrimental to my childhood.

It's easy to overcompensate for things like this, just like it is easy to overcompensate for safety. Parents who know better are likely to ignore studies like this, but others will definitely use these studies to excuse their own draconian censorship, privacy violation, etc.

> This is also why sex ed is important, BTW.

Correct thoughtful sex ed is important. Teaching children to stay away from or fear their sexuality is detrimental, yet it is still common practice. It would be nice to be able to expect a reasonable reaction from everyone, but the fact is that we simply can't.

I think the focus of studies like this misses the mark. Children need variety, so it's important for parents to push them out the door from time to time. Unfortunately, a lot of parents find it more important to schedule every moment of their child's life, make every decision for their child, or be somewhere in between. That attitude leads them to awful things like censorship, and privacy intrusion.


Huh, Children’s privacy and liberty are already extremely limited, by definition.

The phone addiction thing is severe for young people, and it’s not comparable to playing games on the computer back in the day.

My stepson responded to the suggestion of placing modest limits on his phone use with genuine anguish.

The problem is compounded by network effects, because vital social connections are now actively mediated through the phones.


Children have little of either privacy or liberty because they are still in the process of learning how best to utilize their privacy and liberty under the guidance of a parent.

Now, if you were to empirically argue (with data/evidence) on the importance of privacy and liberty in children, that’s a different story, but since when was parenting driven by science? :O


> Now, if you were to empirically argue (with data/evidence)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Why_Wikipedia_cannot...

My personal experiences are valid.

Fear and control would have directly affected me, and I am certain that would have been to my detriment.


It is valid, but it cannot be evidence: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anecdotal_evidence


My point is that this situation does not call for evidence.

Demanding statistics at every turn means you are going to ignore anything that doesn't have it. That's just unreasonable.


Are you worried about parents, or governments?


Both, but mostly the latter.

I know a lot of parents who are over-concerned with their child's "safety". That extends to reading through teenager's texts, severely limiting their exposure to computers, etc.

Naturally, every child is different, and most won't have similar interests to what I had as a child, but speaking from experience: I would not have flourished in such an environment. I would never have had the liberty to mod video games, install Linux, etc. in a situation like that. I wouldn't have even encountered an interest in such things.

A concern with what a child does on his or her own can easily evolve into overbearing control and censorship. I want every parent to understand that.


> I am concerned with any action that takes a child's privacy or liberty from them.

Such as signing them up for a Facebook account, or having their schools force them to use Google hardware and services that track everything they do?


Absolutely!

Also, commonplace firewalls that are made to keep them away from porn, but track them, have serious false-positives, and are often trivially circumvented, giving a false sense of security.

Another thing that really bothers me is that Microsoft convinces practically every school to use their software by giving it to schools "for free", and convincing educators that there are no viable alternatives.

Children usually don't get any opportunity to use a computer freely, i. e. installing other OS's, or even installing software. This means the only opportunities they get are at home, and many don't have their own authority over a real computer at home, either.

It's commonplace for young teenagers to learn how to circumvent arbitrary "security" measures so that they can find liberty, but that isn't always trivial enough to happen. These barriers do more damage than good.


Yeah, because those are all equivalent.

"People who smoke are getting lung cancer. We'd better investigate the carcinogenic properties of tobacco."

"People who get too much sun are exhibiting symptoms from melanoma to premature aging. Could this be related to UV exposure?"

"People who work with radioactive material are dropping like flies. What the heck's up with that?"

"People who consume excessive sugar are experiencing symptoms from obesity to insulin resistance to heart disease. Could there be a connection?"

"Kids who spend a lot of time on iPhones are ... well, fine, I guess, but there's got to be some grant money in there somewhere."


> Kids who spend a lot of time on iPhones are

showing signs of decreasing attention spans and cognitive abilities [1]. This may be misdiagnosed as ADHD and then medicated. Yeah, they're fine, you guess. I'll cite you the next time someone brings it up to assure them the kids are fine.

[1]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5403814/


Yes, of course, everything seems obvious in hindsight.


And resources for scientific snipe hunts are basically unlimited.


The idea that phones are changing our attention span and giving rise to harmful addictive behaviors, especially applied to children, does not strike me as outlandish or unworthy of investigation.


Given Apple's vast cash pile I don't think this is going to delay your next technological fix by more than an hour or two.


Did any of the pre-internet Time sucks have the ability to monitor billions of people’s usage patterns and incrementally fine tune so as to increase time/money spent? No, I didn’t think so...


One of the most effective things about capitalism is that when new things replace old things, the new things are preferred by consumers over the things they replace.

This is an extremely good feature when talking about most consumer goods. Modern cups are just as good as old cups but way less expensive. Modern cars are significantly better in basically all ways (perhaps excepting repairability).

There may be a danger, however, when talking about technologies that people use, in part, to keep themselves from being bored - to absorb their attention in other words.

For me personally, Facebook/Internet/Computer Games >> TV >> Radio >> Books at capturing my attention. I suspect that this isn't a very unusual experience.

It may seem reasonable on its face to not let technological artifacts push you around or manipulate you, but honestly, it's not just a computer or a TV. Between TV, the Internet and Computer Games, it's the very best and most able of hundreds of thousands of people working every day to capture your attention.

Honestly, I have no idea if the current generation of attention capturing technology is dangerous. But I do know that what ever displaces what we have now will be better at capturing our attention. And the next generation will be better than that. And eventually, if the trend continues, there will be something that's so good at capturing attention that it is dangerous.


Each of those was progressively more addictive (well, barring D&D which involved reading books and thinking).

In 2020s, it will might be VR, in 2030s, it might be they spend too much time socializing with artificial beings, and so on. There is a point where it is worth thinking about whether it is a good thing or not. I know I will for my kid.


And, like clockwork, your type of comment shows up, completely unaware of the irony.


The annoying thing (to me) is, I think it would be awesome to have a study (or studies) of how X [fill in X for the appropriate decade] affects/interacts with children. But not just children, how about people of all ages?

For example, here's a 1955 short educational piece on addition to toys: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3eGxoNMFE3s


No harm studying any of that lot. They are asking for a study not a ban.


I'm pretty sure that there weren't studies about comic book addiction and dungeons and dragons addiction, although there were studies on the influence of violent comic books, and possible associations of violence and dissociation with reality with D&D.

Other than those two, video game, internet, and Facebook addiction are real things. And now, video games and Facebook are being intentionally and consciously designed to encourage addiction.

The only thing I'd agree with you about is that it's just as bad for adults as it is for children. Presumably, though, we generally allow adults to make their own decisions about their addictions, and just offer help when they want to break them. Also, kids are creating the habits that are going to be the substrate for their thinking over the rest of their lives. If you think somebody who got hooked on heroin in their 20s has a tough time quitting at 40, imagine somebody trying to quit at the same age but who started at 10.


What I don’t understand about the whole debate is that people can actually get addicted to anything...collecting bookmarks, chocolate, sex, etc...

Any nobody in their right mind would suggest to regulate or ban those.

I think as society we need to rethink addictions...as people with a issue...a issue that we need to provide help to break.

Instead we are pointing fingers and avoiding the necessary conversation.


The WHO actually defines addiction to video games as a (psychological) disease now in their ICD. Not sure if the new list is in effect already, my last update was "will be on the 2018 list".

I vaguely remember the Jonathan Blow video where he talked about Facebook games and how gaming companies hire psychologists to make sure that skinner rat feeling is maximized. It was pretty disturbing at the time, these days tons of games seem to be "optimized" this way. My guess is higher addiction rates are a logical conclusion. Looking at some Pokemon Go players or WoW players gives me enough anecdotal evidence to think one can get addicted t games quite quickly. Why one would expose children to this psycho-lab unsupervised...I don't know.


Equating moral panics with suggestions to do a rigorous study is facile.


My point exactly.

Kids are going to use whatever their parents put in their hands. All of my nieces and nephews has some type of smart device (tablet, or phone). They are on it all the time. They never paid for it but it was given to them by their parents.

If parents stop giving their kids smart devices, then they will use that spare time doing something else (e.g. video games, homework, hanging out, smoking, idunno). There's no need for a study at all. Kids, in general, don't have money to buy an $800 device.


Funny, but I feel phone/Internet addiction in my own life. I don't need a study or concerned parents to know it's real, at least for some susceptible people.


Sorry, would vouch but looks like I've lost the ability.

This is a valid opinion, backed by citing decades of various pointless moral panics, and should not have been flagged.


Why is scientific inquiry bad? It was certainly warranted for television, and the deregulation of children's telvision in the US is widely regarded as a mistake.

If there is no evidence (as for example, there is no evidence of anytbing more than a small group of people causing a brief TV panic about D&D, a remarkable preview of Facebook-like credulitiy culture?), then intentional reflection on the impact of the products we make on society is a rational and reasonable precaution.


Why is scientific inquiry bad?

The first step in scientific inquiry is identifying the problem. Since that hasn't been done -- just as it wasn't done in the other examples cited -- that suggests the motivation for "investigation" is politics rather than science.

My favorite example is probably the video game moral panic. Nobody seemed to care that the juvenile crime rate took a steep turn down right around the time FPS games began making the news. That wasn't an example of "scientific inquiry," it was a politically-motivated witch hunt. What, exactly, is different this time?


This isn't even wrong. It's so divorced from the method as it is commonly taught it makes me wonder if there is a language barrier at play.

It's possible to inquire, "For a reasonable definition of 'addiciton' do we see those effects?"

Your cherry picked anecdote is cancelled out by mine: standards in television broadcasting for children. Let's leave subsequent anecdote bandying aside and trust in the scientific method a bit, okay?


What opinion is expressed here? There's a vague implication of "this is unfounded" they cannot even be bothered to put in clear words, much less make a case for, while trying to make up for that by repetition. So it's not okay to "think of the children", ever, but let's play good Samaritan for what is nothing more than a meme because it's a "valid opinion". Got it.


The observation is that whenever kids fixate on some new activity, the previous generation will always become extremely suspicious that it's harmful. If this hasn't been borne out in the past, then we can't take those suspicions as much evidence that there's anything to worry about.


And in the past, sometimes it's been a problem and sometimes it has not. It stands to reason that as we hyper-optimize for attention seeking applications we might start making things that children cannot realistically resist.

Television deregulation in the US is the precedent here. Given the modest costs of these sorts of inquiries compared to the massive profits enjoyed by Apple, Google, Samsung et al, it seems like a reasonable use for corporate tax dollars is to be an advocate for the general populace and make assurances these products are not in fact harmful.

Why is this such a challenging idea? No one is saying, "These are proven bad." They're saying, "We should have a definition of bad and then validate it."

The idea that we're not even allowed to ask the question because it's offensive? Why, that's positively irrational.


But we're soley not operating on "extreme suspicions because something is new" here. The letter does cite some studies, for starters. And you're mixing up "haven't always borne out exactly as predicted by the most worried people" and "have never borne out".

There was a time when using x-ray machines in shoe shops seemed totally benign, like a fun, useful thing. Suspicions about that "new thing" as well as others were correct. Including here, that list starts with "comic book" and ends with "internet and facebook" addiction, which are absolutely worth studying.


>The letter does cite some studies, for starters.

Sure, but surely these suspicions would exist anyway. The fact that we're probably thinking about this because of some bias is important to note, because that bias is likely to continue affecting people's thinking moving forward.

>And you're mixing up "haven't always borne out exactly as predicted by the most worried people" and "have never borne out".

I don't think I am. Any randomly selected hypothesis has some possibility of being true, especially one like "is <thing that exists> harmful". The fact that some of them have been borne out doesn't necessarily mean that "new things kids like are especially likely to be bad" is a good heuristic.

It's not that it's impossible that "phone addiction" is hurting kids. It's that we've seen this pattern over and over, and when people's thinking is biased, they're likely to continue believing there's a problem long after the majority of evidence suggests that there isn't. Pointing that out to raise people's skepticism is productive.


> doesn't necessarily mean that "new things kids like are especially likely to be bad" is a good heuristic

That heuristic is a strawman. Who employs it? Quote someone, I doubt you can. And then there's the countless new things kids like that nobody on the planet says a peep about, how do those figure in?

As for "heuristics", consider the notion that if kids like something new and untested en masse, they themselves may not be able to discern what is going on, so adults need to pay attention. Full stop, that's before getting into the actual signs that this particular issue might not be all peachy.

A study is just a study. You can hardly fearmonger about Apple sponsoring studies that skew the results against mobile devices. So why does this thread even exist? Because FUD exists, and even though this isn't FUD, it needs to be pre-emptively countered by false assurances in the form of memes?

Last but not least, it's not as if "let's study X" is how it used to be said... so to imply the equation "let's study X" == "X is of the devil for sure!" shouldn't slip under the radar the way it does.


I agree with this guy.


If the market of iPhone users are older, I think that this study will impact apple much less than android.


Thing is that really pretty much no matter what is found nothing is going to change.


Apple shareholders should push for study of bad parenting.


Just for parents? Why not just give all users the ability to block certain usage patterns and access to applications -- kinda like the StayFocusd plugin for Chrome. Hell, charge a monthly fee to access the web interface to manage it; you get a mechanism to induce friction and you get a subscription business -- I would pay for this shit since I value my attention more than someone who you pick off the street. How does 300$ a year sound? like weight watchers for attention (we know that model works already). You get a nice upsell on an already expensive device. Maybe this will be a nice way to maintain profits given that people aren't replacing their devices as often anymore, keep trying the stunt of billing incremental features as revolutionary and people will stop believing you.


This seems like a weird request. Are iPhones supposed to be more addictive than Android phones or something?


Probably because Apple is a hardware company and Google (read Android) is an advertising company. Stopping addiction is more harmful to Google than Apple. Hence it can improve their market share.


Makes sense. Apple wants you to buy the phone, that's enough. Google needs you to use the phone, the more the better.


Sorry. But no, just buying the phone is not enough for Apple!

If somebody would buy a iPhone and then rarely/never use it, then they would never or only in very long cycles buy a new iPhone...people also talk less about things they rarely use and it would therefore hurt brand awareness...and if you believe that Apples singular motivation to exist is to make more profit then that’s not a good thing!

Armchair commenters like to focus on how making profit is a company’s singular purpose and motivation...the bigger the company (Apple, Google, etc) the more kitties they are willing to poison to do so...but that’s absurd!

Making a lot of money is the ‘outcome’ of providing something people want...and the companies who do this successfully are simply the ones that focus on metrics that measure how much use users get out of their products...it’s that simple...and I would imagine that anyone who ever worked at a successful company would be able to attest that.

I have never ever in my career sat in a team meeting in a successful company where somebody suggested doing something because it would make us more money...that kind of thinking is shortsighted...I can see how it could work temporarily but it’s not a way to build a mission driven company like the ones at hand!

I am all for being critical...but we need to stop being cynical about everything...that doesn’t lead to any place worth going!

Try this: At first assume good intent and then think about why a company build their product the way they did...and then do the same but assume bad intent. Always almost will you notice that if the company was truly ill intended they would have driven it way farther.


I don't know that heavy use vs light use drives when they buy a new phone.


It most certainly does...it does for most if not all kind of products.

One example I have at hand is for mobile apps...not the best one in this context but here we go: Most users forget about a app if they haven’t used it in 7 days!

It’s not like they forget to use it, or forget they had it...they forget that it exits!


I'm not sure that phones fit into this paradigm very well. First, having a phone is almost a necessity. Note that I did not say smartphone, but having a device that receives calls and texts is something that nearly every functioning adult will have.

Secondly, many people treat their phone more as a lease than an outright purchase. Carriers provide a ton of options to upgrade your phone regularly that could easily cause low-use users to habitually upgrade every 2 years or so.

Lastly, Apple phones in particular seem to be seen as a luxury. Luxury sales aren't necessarily tied to frequency of use. For example, I have a set of name brand golf clubs that I touch maybe 5 times a summer.

I am definitely not saying that you are wrong, but there are a lot of compounding factors to this. Phones are a fairly unique market.


Cars would be a counterexample.


The connection is presumably that they're Apple shareholders asking something of Apple.


It's not a relative thing - Camels may not be more addictive than Marlboros, but either company would presumably want to understand the impact of its products addictive tendencies to stay ahead of any regulation.


IMO, it's all the same.

But if I had to make an argument: People who buy iPhones are more likely to get their kids an exclusive iPad in their homes, thus making their kids prone to addiction. (Just a theory!)


I suppose its possible to argue that they are by virtue of the superiority of their UI design and a more robust app ecosystem. In my own experience, I find myself far more impulsive about phone use on an iPhone than when I was using android devices.


> I find myself far more impulsive about phone use on an iPhone than when I was using android devices

Looking through a tinted lens, is it possible that iOS devices are just nicer to use, leading you to use them more?


I've had a couple iPhones and now currently use Android, but I never noticed this in myself. Can you give a little bit more detail?


I’ve seen kids ask silly questions to Siri and having a ball getting silly answers back. Is G-now any fun?


I think this is a super silly debate, but yes, Google Now is tons of fun. It will tell stories to you (way more than Siri knows), it will play games with you (way more games than Siri can play), it will do all kinds of unexpected and fun, nearly-natural things that are not just search.

Siri's answers are monotonous and boring compared to Google's.


This almost feels like a virtue signaling PR piece.


I have yet to see a use of "virtue signaling" that usefully distinguishes it from "believing that certain things are good and certain things are bad, and publicly saying as much, and advocating for a society that supports the good things and not the bad things," something that every generation in humanity has considered essential (and something that has traditionally been a thing conservatives have accused liberals of not doing, incidentally).


"Virtue signalling" mostly means: thinking that the public generally thinks that certain things are good and certain things are bad, and so—whether or not you think those things personally—you know that it's good PR to support consensus-good things and be outraged by consensus-bad things.

Virtue signalling is at its most stark when the "good" thing is known to not actually be good, and yet companies do it anyway because they know that the public mistakenly believes it to be good.

For example: agro businesses virtue-signal by using "pesticide-free" processes—which aren't actually "pesticide free" in the spirit-of-the-law sense, but rather just make use of alternative chemicals as pesticides that aren't classed as pesticides by the FDA. These alternative pesticides are worse for the crops, and for your health, than the finely-tuned ones that get sprayed on regular crops. The businesses are signalling virtuousness by doing something knowingly anti-virtuous.

Another example (this time more in the editorial vein of the OP): governments and nonprofits love pushing for increased residential recycling. It's commerce and industry that generate the vast majority of waste; residential waste accounts for less than 10% of all waste, and recycling already has decent-enough take-up among residences that the additional ROI on residential recycling advocacy is actually negative. (I.e., we've passed the point where the marginal person affected by recycling advocacy actually helps the system by recycling; the people being reached by advocacy now are people with high-enough-paying jobs that it has more benefit to let them spend the time they would spend recycling working, and then tax their additional income and use it to pay for sorting facility workers.) But it's consensus-virtuous to preach the individual responsibility to recycle, so companies love taking part in spreading this advocacy. (Often in hypocritical ways: they'll give their office buildings separated waste containers so that the employees can feel better about having recycled—and then dump all the containers into landfill, because that's more cost-efficient.)


Thanks. But it seems like there are old terms that more accurately describe these cases - hypocrisy, or deception. And neither hypocrisy nor deception applies (I think) to the case described in this article.

Maybe a more accurate way of phrasing my complaint "virtue signaling" is a grab bag that means one of two things: saying that a good thing is good and genuinely believing it (though perhaps being louder about saying than doing), and saying that a good thing is good when it's not actually good, or as a way of giving yourself cover when doing a bad thing. The cases you describe seem like the latter, but this article seems like the former.


But the point is to have a word that points to the thing that is in common between those two cases: the action of professing a belief because it is good PR, whether or not it is true. It is the single-act equivalent of what would be referred to as "sociopathic narcissism" if it was a continuous property of a person: a desire to look good that will use the truth if the truth suits, or a lie if a lie suits, without caring which is which.

To be clear, usages of the term "virtue signalling" to describe the behaviour of an individual, don't usually usually imply the same degree of sociopathy that it does when applied to the actions of a corporation. An individual doing "virtue signalling" is simply learning signals that tend to make people react by calling them a good person, and then parroting those signals, without necessarily doing much to learn about the content of those signals.

A better term for the individual behaviour might be "cargo-cult virtuousness"—which makes even more sense when put together with an assumption that people will be cargo-culting the "ritual" of a virtuous behaviour from other people who also cargo-culted the ritual, and so the ritual being performed will decay in this retransmission until it consists only of the observable actions that get people to call you virtuous, without holding any of the content that actually is virtuous.

Which is to say, in an environment with centralized teachings of moral ritual (like a religious congregation with active preaching), the only kind of virtue signalling that works is to actually do consensus-virtuous acts, because everyone is both aware of what the virtuous rituals are, and also aware that everyone else is aware of what the virtuous rituals are. In such an environment, it requires an active intent toward deception to merely signal virtue.

Meanwhile, in an environment where the idea of virtuous ritual is merely spread memetically, between families and peer groups, it is easy for a the idea of a virtuous ritual to become corrupted such that people can actually think themselves virtuous (and others can actually think that person virtuous) based solely on the performance of the "hollowed out" virtue ritual.

To reiterate, the point of virtue-signalling is to point to the thing that goes on in both contexts above: the thing that is active deception in communities with centrally-dictated virtue ritual; and the thing that is unquestioned cargo-cult-ism in communities with peerwise-transmitted virtue ritual.


Virtue signaling is used when someone (in this case Apple) is just trying to _look_ like they care. As the primary drivers of iPhone addiction, it is easy to assume that they are only doing this study as PR


> As the primary drivers of iPhone addiction

That's an odd way of breaking the problem down.

Apple's one of the major drivers of smartphone addiction, but if you compare them to Google, they're a lot more likely to genuinely move towards limiting these sorts of issues. After all, their profits come more from the hardware sale, whereas Google gets their profits from ongoing usage of the device.


I suspect “virtue signaling” implies shallowness or insincerity, and that one is stating a position for affiliation instead of advocacy.


Couldn't that be rewritten as "advocating a position for affiliation instead of advocacy"?

And if I point out a potential bug in your or our program, is the claim "you only do this to impress people who hate this type of bug" (which can rarely be proven or refuted) a good enough reason to not even look into it?


Right - even if the "virtue signaling" activity is being done to promote goodness out of a desire for social status than an inherent belief in that goodness, what's wrong with it, as long as it's done effectively?

(If it's done ineffectively or fraudulently, that's a problem, but the problem there seems to be the fraud.)


In other words, it’s a dog whistle for accusations of insincerity when there is an absence of evidence to support that point?


I wouldn’t say it’s virtue signaling. It’s more like Phillip Morris conducting a study on smoking, or Exxon-Mobil conducting a study on climate change.

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