Dr. Richard Freed is a child and adolescent psychologist who works with children who have been “torn apart” by the overuse persuasive technologies. Freed is the author of Wired Child: Reclaiming Childhood in a Digital Age, an international speaker and a contributor to the Huffington Post. In this video, recorded at the Children’s Screen Time Action Network Conference in Boston, Freed’s keynote reveals a dark secret: psychology – a discipline that we associate with healing – is now used as a weapon against children.
“For girls, it’s a basic formula – they overuse social media and smartphones. They have 100 social media friends but those phones become so compulsively used that it disconnects them from their families, that even when they’re older they still need to connect with. So they get lonely, they get depressed, they cut and they get suicidal.”
“For boys, a little bit of a different formula. They become so enamored of video games that these really capable kids disconnect from all things productive. They lose interest in school and quickly move towards the cohort of young men which we hear about…men that aren’t going off to get jobs.
According to Freed, there is an unknown merger between the infinite wealth of the tech industry and the highest levels of academic psychology, together they create “persuasive design” – “devices that are so powerful and have a drug like effect that it will pull kids away from the rest of their life.” Freed says the fight is not fair, children’s brains are still developing and so the screens have a “magnetic power” that are able to pull children away from key real-world developmental activities that they need to engage in. Though Freed doesn’t think that people who create persuasive technologies set out to hurt children intentionally, he does think that it was a “predictable or understandable consequence.”
Freed breaks down how persuasive design works, saying that they “create social media and online video game sites that are better than the real world.” Basic human drives – to be social and to obtain goals. The rewards you get from persuasive technologies are much easier to obtain than that of the real world.
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