A new campaign, spearheaded by a group of former employees of Google and Facebook, is pushing technology companies to address issues surrounding tech and media addiction, as part of an effort to combat “the digital attention crisis and realigning technology with humanity’s best interests,” according to a report from the Guardian.
Called the “Truth About Tech” campaign, it will seek to educate families on the potential negative effects of heavy use of social media and digital technology, and on the options available to address such problems, such as disabling social media notifications and switching displays to greyscale. The campaign will also include lobbying efforts to promote policy that will combat manipulative practices by tech companies, and establish standards for ethical design, in an effort to curb tech addiction.
The campaign was started by the Center for Humane Technology, led by Tristan Harris, a former Google design ethicist, and Roger McNamee, a former investor and adviser to Facebook. It is funded by Common Sense, a not-for-profit group working to protect children from the potentially harmful effects of digital technology and media.
According to Common Sense CEO James Steyer, the business model threatens “the social, emotional and cognitive development of kids.”
“Tech companies are conducting a massive, real-time experiment on our kids, and, at present, no one is really holding them accountable,” says Steyer. “When parents learn how these companies can take advantage of our kids, they will join us in demanding the industry change its ways and improve certain practices.”
The group’s research has found that teenagers spend an average of nine hours daily consuming media, while preteens spend an average of six. Research by psychologist Jeanne Twenge has indicated that heavy consumers of digital and social media are 56 percent more likely to report that they are unhappy and 27 percent more likely to experience depression.
The campaign is the latest development in a growing backlash against tech companies and social media. Often, the heaviest criticism has come from former tech industry employees. In November of last year, Sean Parker, the founding president of Facebook, said the company had knowingly manipulated a “vulnerability in human psychology.” In December, another former Facebook executive said the social media platform was “ripping apart the social fabric of how society works.”
Just weeks later, the company itself conceded that it “might be having a negative impact on society.”