Kids And Screen Addiction: ‘Between Candy And Crack Cocaine, It’s Closer To Crack Cocaine’

Kids And Screen Addiction: ‘Between Candy And Crack Cocaine, It’s Closer To Crack Cocaine’

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Cell phone addiction is real, especially when it comes to young phone users. And some people–people in the tech industry–are speaking out about the excessive use of cell phone by kids and the long-ranging effects.

In fact, two big Apple investors as well as the co-creator of the iPhone are speaking out the need to limit iPhones to children.

Chris Anderson, the former editor of Wired, told the New York Times:

“On the scale between candy and crack cocaine, it’s closer to crack cocaine,” Anderson said of screens. Technologists building these products and writers observing the tech revolution were naive, he said. “We thought we could control it. And this is beyond our power to control. This is going straight to the pleasure centers of the developing brain… I didn’t know what we were doing to their brains until I started to observe the symptoms and the consequences… We glimpsed into the chasm of addiction, and there were some lost years, which we feel bad about….”

The amount of time spent on phone by children is growing and growing. “A study at the University of San Diego found that U.S. teenagers who spend three hours a day or more on electronic devices are 35% more likely to have “a risk factor” for suicide. Kids who spend five hours or more a day are 71% more likely to have the risk factor.  A schoolteacher quoted in the study said many kids no longer go outside for noon recess, preferring to stay indoors and play on their cell phones,” Business News reported.

So Tony Fadell, the co-creator of the iPhone, went to Twitter to talk about the issue, apparently inspired by an article in the Wall Street Journal titled “iPhones and Children Are a Toxic Pair, Say Two Big Apple Investors.”

cell phone addiction
Photo by Tim Gouw on Unsplash


Also, two major Apple investors, JANA Partners LLC and the California State Teachers’ Retirement System (CalSTRS), express their concern about the mental health costs of excessive cell phone use by kids, and they think Apple can come up with a solution. Collectively, the two groups hold about $2 billion in Apple shares.

In a January 6 letter to Apple, they wrote: “In the case of Apple, we believe the long-term health of its youngest customers and the health of society, our economy, and the Company itself, are inextricably linked, and thus the only difference between the changes we are advocating at Apple now and the type of change shareholders are better known for advocating is the time period over which they will enhance and protect value.”

Fadell not only  retweeted the WSJ article on Oct. 28th but also went into a tweetstorm about the dangers of excessive cell phone use.

There has been lots of research about the dangers. According to a 2017 study conducted by the University of Basel (Switzerland), many adolescents use their smartphones in bed at night, which often creates their sleep time and this can lead to depressive symptoms.

“We are very pleased to see that leading shareholders have spoken out about their concerns for the health and safety of kids on cell phones and online,” said Common Sense founder and CEO James Steyer. “It is a hugely important development for shareholders to take public action like this on digital addiction and inappropriate cell phone behavior.” Common Sense started the #DeviceFreeDinner campaign.

But the call is for Apple to respond. Some point out that since Apple added a “do not disturb while driving” mode to iOS that closes the iPhone’s notifications and urges the driver to then focus on the road, there should be something similar for iPhones used by kids.

Fadell wants the industry to respond, not just Apple. He’s calling out Google as well. “They’re the only ones who can do this–they own the OS & app ecosystem,” Fadell wrote. “They need to do more, like single-use device modes: When I’m reading an ebook on my tablet, listening to music (ala iPod)…no email or facebook notifications, no texts.”

Parents are concerned too–even tech parents. According to Business Times, Bill Gates had said his kids are not allowed to have cellphones until they are teenagers. Apple’s Tim Cook has said he will not let his nephew use social media. The late Steve Jobs didn’t even let his young children use iPads. And in Silicon Valley, nannies are being asked to sign no-phone contracts.

“About two-thirds of U.S. parents worry that their teenage children spend too much time immersed in a screen, according to a survey released in late August by the Pew Research Center. Nearly three-fourths of parents said they thought their teenagers were sometimes distracted by their phones during conversations with them,” DFW CBS Local reported.