Excerpt from Irresistible: The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping Us Hooked – Adam Alter
At an Apple event in January 2010, Steve Jobs unveiled the iPad:
What this device does is extraordinary . . . It offers the best way to browse the web; way better than a laptop and way better than a smartphone . . . It’s an incredible experience . . . It’s phenomenal for mail; it’s a dream to type on. For ninety minutes, Jobs explained why the iPad was the best way to look at photos, listen to music, take classes on iTunes U, browse Facebook, play games, and navigate thousands of apps. He believed everyone should own an iPad.
But he refused to let his kids use the device.
In late 2010, Jobs told New York Times journalist Nick Bilton that his children had never used the iPad.” We limit how much technology our kids use in the home.” Bilton discovered that other tech giants imposed similar restrictions. Chris Anderson, the former editor of Wired, enforced strict time limits on every device in his home, “because we have seen the dangers of technology firsthand.” His five children were never allowed to use screens in their bedrooms. Evan Williams, a founder of Blogger, Twitter, and Medium, bought hundreds of books for his two young sons, but refused to give them an iPad. And Lesley Gold, the founder of an analytics company, imposed a strict no-screen-time-during-the-week rule on her kids. She softened her stance only when they needed computers for schoolwork. Walter Isaacson, who ate dinner with the Jobs family while researching his biography of Steve Jobs, told Bilton that, “No one ever pulled out an iPad or computer. The kids did not seem addicted at all to devices.” It seemed as if the people producing tech products were following the cardinal rule of drug dealing: never get high on your own supply.
Ever since its inception, the promise of the Internet has always been that our children will be smarter, better-equipped, super connected, and more astute problem solvers. However, most if not all of these promises have turned out to be at best, half-truths and at worst, outright lies. In our ever increasingly screen-controlled world, a new generation of kids is facing increasing mental health problems, including addiction, depression, and lack of sleep. Screen time is also affecting our children’s ability in school; it lowers lecture recall, reading comprehension, and speed – even just having a phone in one’s pocket has been shown to lower test scores. And now, tech companies are even exploiting brain chemistry in order to make their apps more addictive. “We’re really living in this new era that we’re not just designing software anymore, we’re designing minds.” -Ramsay Brown, Dopamine Labs.
Find out more about the effects of screen time and tech use on your kids at www.youthandtechnology.info.