Online addiction and persuasive technology have been all over the news again. The BBC had a Panorama Programme last week – The Dark Side, which was fascinating. It demonstrated how we are being deliberately exploited by persuasive design, to generate profit by keeping us online longer. It does make you think twice about picking up your devices. Some experts are referring to the addiction as Digital Cocaine. I have even found images of children snorting cocaine on their iPhones. Are we making a big fuss or is all this true and should we be trying to fight back?
I know last week I spoke about online addiction, but this sits very closely with persuasive technology. Former employees of technology companies have admitted they are designing their wares to lure us in and keep us hooked. They are playing on the very human element of addiction and are studying, through science, psychology and our own social media usage, how we engage, even down to the colour of the like button. Every time we pick up our phones, get an alert or a notification, it gives us a rush.. What really fascinates me is that most of us just accept this.[ We are happy to let our children have devices 24 hours a day. Social media platforms watch our every move, they know we need to be loved and the more we are loved the more we will use their platform. The longer they keep us hooked, the more money the companies earn. Take a few minutes and watch the BBC Documentary on iPlayer; it amazes me how they are getting away with it. If your little corner shop sold alcohol or any addictive substance to a 15-year-old, it would be shut down in minutes, yet despite the growing recognition of the negative effects of overuse of social media, there is little reaction against these companies attempting to exploit us.
High profile owners and employees of large tech companies have admitted that their children are not allowed near social media or even allowed to have a smart phone. Should we not be following their well-informed lead. Since watching ‘the Dark Side’I have again made changes. I take my son’s phone away from him and make him go and make him find others ways to entertain himself. You see so many items in the news feeds saying kids of the 80’s were playing in parks, but children of today sit on technology. Whose fault is that? Ours, we are allowing it to happen. We all need to be bored. I was listening to Fern Cotton’s, ‘Happy Place’ a few weeks ago and she was interviewing Kirsty Young. Her mother’s advice to her was ‘just take time, sit at a wall and dribble’. Let’s embrace boredom, enjoy some quiet time and let our imaginations come alive.
I know you must probably use it as an alarm, as I did, but why not use a good old-fashioned alarm clock intead. Leave all phones downstairs. We need a digital cleanse in the evening. From the moment you switch off your iPhone or laptop, it takes 2.5 – 3 hours for your brain to reach the deep sleep/REM state. So, if you want to sleep at 22:00, your phone should be on aeroplane mode by 19:00. Teenagers are spending on average 18 hours a week online; I wonder if adults equal this. I am pretty sure we do. Most of you will be gasping at this point. Okay, I am not perfect, and my phone is still on at 10pm, but I do leave it downstairs with both my boys’ phones and the internet goes off at 10pm too.
I know last week I set the challenge of #nophones, but this week, let’s try and digital cleanse before bedtime and get our children to do this too.