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Pasig City Science H Group

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Children's Trends with Smartphones



Social media sites like Instagram, Facebook, TikTok and Snapchat are engineered to maximize the results of persuasive design. Using “like” buttons and heart emojis, those sites provide social signals, like acceptance and approval, which teens are highly motivated to seek. The act of scrolling through the sites requires very little effort. And the apps trigger regular reengagement through continual notifications and prompts.


Snapchat, for instance, urges users to send snaps at least every 24 hours to keep their Snapstreak alive. To avoid the stress of missing out on reactions or updates from their friends, kids check social media increasingly frequently.


In video games, Fortnite lets players know how close they are to beating an opponent. This triggers the “near miss” phenomenon, encouraging people to keep playing because they were so close, they might win next time. This is just one of the ways persuasive design has been adapted from gambling systems for adults into digital video games aimed at kids.


Young brains are particularly vulnerable to persuasive design, an expert writes. Patrick T. Fallon/AFP via Getty Images

Ethical concerns. As a scholar of psychology, I am concerned that psychologists are helping technology designers use the principles of psychology to manipulate children and adolescents into increasing their use of a particular app, game or website.


At the same time, other psychologists are researching the harms of these activities, including anxiety, depression, attention issues and obesity. Still other psychologists have opened treatment centers to treat internet gaming disorder and other mental health issues associated with excessive and problematic use, like anxiety and depression.


In my view, the principles of one field should not both create and provide treatment for a problem. The American Psychological Association, the largest professional association for psychologists in America, has an ethics code requiring psychologists to do no harm, object to work that does not benefit people’s well-being and take special care when dealing with young people because they are not yet fully mature.


As such, I believe psychologists have an obligation to protect children from the influences of persuasive technology. Researchers who help social media sites and games may think they are just trying to help the companies make the most dynamic and engaging products possible. But the reality is they are turning a blind eye to the many psychological harms that research has shown these products cause.


Parents and children are rightfully concerned about the degree to which games, videos and social media are engineered to exploit kids’ impressionable minds. Psychologists could make an effort to explain to parents and kids how children’s brains develop, and how persuasive design exploits that process. This can help Emperor123 families stop arguing with each other about spending too much time with their devices and recognize that the bigger threat is not the devices themselves but rather the companies that design these devices and apps to be so difficult to turn off.

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