Take Action

Stop Corporate Surveillance in Schools supports the work of Campaign for Commercial Free Childhood and the Children’s Screen Time Action Network. They have a new and vital action for psychologists and psychiatrists to take to protect children from corporate surveillance.

We are reposting it here but the original link is here as well.

Action Network members are taking a stand against psychological manipulation that keeps kids on ad-supported screens.

Persuasive design, also known as behavior design, is a series of techniques meant to nudge and change human behavior. Developed with the help of psychologists and employed without users’ knowledge or consent, persuasive design is often meant to keep users on a device or platform as long as possible. In the words of neuroscientist and AI expert Ramsay Brown, “Your kid is not weak-willed because he can’t get off his phone. Your kid’s brain is being engineered to get him to stay on his phone.”

As Dr. Richard Freed outlined in a piece earlier this year, these practices manipulate kids into overusing digital devices, putting their health and wellbeing at risk. For tech companies, more product use equals more profits. But for kids, more screen time means more advertising, more unfair data collection, and less time for the play and relationships that really matter for healthy development. Psychologists who use their expertise to help companies target kids are in violation of their ethical tenet to “take care to do no harm.”

That’s why Dr. Freed and Dr. Meghan Owenz, psychologists and members of the Children’s Screen Time Action Network, have organized a letter asking the APA to address psychologists’ role in persuasive design. More than 60 psychologists have signed the letter, which asks the APA to:

Issue a formal public statement condemning psychologists’ role in designing persuasive technologies for children,

Call on psychologists and the tech industry to disclose their use of psychological persuasion techniques, and

Take strong actions to educate parents, schools, and child advocates about the use of psychological persuasion in social media and video games; and inform the public of the harms of children’s overuse of screens.

This action is a project of the Mental Health Professionals Working Group, and a great example of how the Network unites and empowers experts to push back against screen culture. The letter has already received extensive media coverage, including the Associated PressVox and the Washington Post. If you haven’t yet joined a working group and would like to, please contact me at jean@commercialfreechildhood.org!

Thanks for all you do,

Jean Rogers
Screen Time Program Manager, CCFC

P.S. From now until Saturday, we’re at the APA’s national convention in San Francisco to garner support for this effort. If you’re attending, please stop by booth 113!

Leave a Reply