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irresistible

There is a plethora of books, internet posts, academic papers, videos, newspaper and magazine articles about our use of digital devices being addictive. Among the several really good books to appear recently is Irresistible: Why We can’t stop Checking, Scrolling, Clicking and Watching by Adam Alter, reviewed here.

Among concerns raised by many are:

  • Do these ‘addictions’ have an effect on mental health? Some answers debate whether over-use is a sign or a cause of depression, for instance.
  • Is our mind itself being altered – in how we think, our cognition? Is the brain being rewired as digital machines become extensions of our nervous systems?
  • Does digital addiction anaethetise us, make us docile and passive?
  • What bad effects may there be on child development?
  • Are our real relationships suffering?
  • Do parents bear a great responsibility for how they use digital devices in front of children – for instance at the dinner table?

The list is probably endless. Here are some recent examples of such worries.

Parents’ phone addiction may lead to child behavioural problems
at NHS Choices

Children as young as 13 attending ‘smartphone rehab’ as concerns grow over screen time The Independent

In Wired comes the following:

In late 2010, Steve 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.

This is unsettling. Why are the world’s greatest public technocrats also its greatest private technophobes? It seemed as if they were following the cardinal rule of drug dealing: never get high on your own supply.

Of course, many of these stark warnings have been tempered by other views. It’s important to examine ‘the good, the bad and the grey’ mentioned in a previous post. But it’s an issue that deserves our full attention.