some views on tech/screens and kids

Some recent views on kids and tech. Putting them here to refer back to as I work through the ideas.

  • “Screen and Teens” (Analysis, BBC Radio, 30 mins)
  • “Dr. Michael Rich, MD” (Triangulation,, 1 hour)
  • “Have We Always Been This Tired?” (The Inquiry, BBC World Service, 23 mins)

“Screen and Teens”, Analysis, BBC Radio 4 (28 min)

Aired: 2018 March 19


Do we need to “do something” about the effects of smartphones on teenage children? The backlash against the omnipresent devices has begun. Parents on both sides of the Atlantic are increasingly worried that smartphones pose a threat to the current generation of teenagers, who have grown up with a phone almost constantly in their hand. Smartphones make our teenagers anxious, tired narcissists who lack empathy and the ability to communicate properly in person. Or so the story goes.

David Baker examines the evidence behind the case against smartphones. He hears from the academics calling for action to curb the addictive pull of the screen and from a former Silicon Valley developer who won’t let his children have a smartphone. But he also speaks to experts convinced this is just another moral panic about technology’s effect on the young.

Could there be a danger in blaming smartphones for the rise in teenage anxiety, especially among girls, at the expense of finding the real cause?What, if anything, should we be doing to protect our kids? And who can we look to for guidance in fashioning a healthy relationship with this incredibly powerful piece of kit?

Producer: Lucy Proctor.


  • Loren Brichter — app developer resisting the use of cell phones by kids
    • Economic model for companies could be part of the problem — time spent in the app is what advertising-based models make money on, so they’re incentivized to make apps that will keep people using them as long as possible.
  • Jean Twenge, author of iGen: Why Today’s Super-Connected Kids are Growing up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy–and Completely Unprepared for Adulthood, and Professor of Psychology at San Diego State University.
    • Essentially argues the precautionary principle — there’s no negative effect in limiting use but there *could* be a chance that screen time negatively impacts kids, so why not limit it?
  • Amy Orben, Researcher at Department of Experimental Psychology, University of Oxford.
    • Argues that phones haven’t been proven as the causal factor in depression, etc., that people like Twenge argue they are.
  • Andy Przybylski, Senior Researcher at Oxford Internet Institute.
    • In his research, he sees minimal negative well-being impact from even 7-8 hours of screen use per day (much less than from missing breakfast).
  • Sonia Livingstone, Professor of Social Psychology, Department of Media and Communications at London School of Economics; blogger at LSE’s Parenting for a Digital Future.
    • Are we ignoring the majority of social issues (changes in the education system, in family and community life, etc.) that are impacting kids by putting all the negative outcomes we see on technology?
    • Banning devices for kids is a bad idea – damages relationships with kids and parents/teachers. Age and maturity should dictate when kids get devices.
    • Social norms will change to dictate how phones should be used in society. Regulation will only follow changes in social norms.
  • Stella, 15-yr old student, and heavy phone user.
    • Very aware of how phone use impacts her well-being, particularly around sleep.
    • Family now works with her to make sure her phone gets put away out of the room in the evenings before bed.
  • Natalie, Stella’s mum.
    • Compartmentalizing life is harder now than it was in the past — the public and private are always joined.
  • Laverne Antrobus, child psychologist at Tavistock Clinic.
    • Not sure what level of alarm is required re: devices — she doesn’t see the evidence to support the level of alarm she naturally feels.

Show link:

Local copy, for posterity (right-click to download if the BBC site no longer has the episode.)

Or listen here:

“Dr. Michael Rich, MD”, Triangulation, (1 hr 04 min)

Aired: 2018 March 09


Megan Morrone talks to Dr. Michael Rich, Founder and Director of the Center on Media and Child Health (CMCH) working on longitudinal studies of how kids you media. Dr. Rich is also Associate Professor of Pediatrics at Harvard Medical School, Associate Professor of Social and Behavioral Sciences at the Harvard School of Public Health, and practices Adolescent Medicine at Boston Children’s Hospital. Dr. Rich talks about the benefits of having a television, the right age to start watching YouTube, and how to talk to your kids about online pornography. Plus, how kids (and adults) can master technology before it masters us.

Show link:

Local copy, for posterity (right-click to download if no longer has the episode).

Or listen here: 

“Have We Always Felt This Tired?”, The Inquiry, BBC World Service (23 min)

Show link (and higher quality download):

Local copy, for posterity (right-click to download if BBC website no longer has the episode).

Or listen here: 

A theory about Google Opinion Rewards

I used to assume the Google Opinion Rewards question “which of the following places have you visited recently” was largely about refining their mapping data, since they regularly assume I’m in a place that I’m just walking past.

But what if it’s about testing how good your memory is? They know the last time I was at Canadian Tire, so what if this is not just about refining location mapping, but about how long it takes me to forget about a place I’ve spent money at visit to a potential advertiser.

Feed that back into the advertising profile they have of me, and Google could start suggesting to advertisers how soon after a visit to their store I should be targeted with an ad to reinforce their brand.

Bald speculation is not analysys

From’s “Jeff Bezos Sold $1.1 Billion Worth of His Amazon Stock”:

From one angle, Bezos’ steady selloff of Amazon stock could simply be seen as part of the same sort of diversification strategy a typical investor might pursue, since the company is performing well. But the sales could also reflect caution about the future of the broader stock market

The analysis is sorely lacking in this piece, as it doesn’t even consider the fact that Bezos announced just a few months ago that he would sell $1 Billion worth of his Amazon shares per year, to fund Blue Origin.