Why it seems so difficult to disconnect your kids

Even before the epidemic, nearly three-quarters of parents were concerned about their children using their mobile phones and the harmful effects of these devices on them and their family relationships. But if kids can’t give up these devices, it’s not really their fault or their parents’ fault. Whenever a parent tries to persuade their child to give up an online game or remove their device, it is not the parent who is against them, but the invisible force of behavior that makes them so addicted to the new technology.

App and game creators rely on the knowledge of persuasive design experts, a field of psychology study aimed at how to create technologies that are almost impossible to do without.



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But care must be taken when addressing children, as psychologists Richard Fried and I explain in our analysis the ethical issues raised by persuasive design aimed at children and adolescents.

Induced design

Simply put, we can say that to change our behavior, inspirational design combines behavioral psychology and technology). It is possible to summarize the principles in three main processes that, when combined, can force someone to correct their behavior: creating a strong motivation, requiring little effort, and frequently persuading the user to practice the corresponding activity.

These principles can be used for productive and useful purposes, such as encouraging people to walk more or to eat more fruits and vegetables. However, persuasive designs are commonly used so that they spend more time in an app or game. Extra income to the app developer.

While teens tend to break the rules, teens are strongly influenced by their parents’ digital behavior.
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Adults are also influenced by persuasive design. This is why they spend hours streaming the series, browsing their social media feeds and playing video games).

But because of the plasticity of their brains, children are particularly at risk for induced design techniques. Children’s excitement when they receive a sticker or gift – real or virtual – is explained by the fact that the ventral striatum, the pleasure center of the brain, is more responsive to dopamine), a molecule of satisfaction in both children and adults.

These excited children repeat their behavior, so that they repeatedly feel that satisfaction. A 2019 survey of teenage screen time has revealed three types of heavy users, all influenced by persuasive design: social media users, video game enthusiasts and those who view online content. Streaming.

Social signals of acceptance

Social networks like Instagram, Facebook, TickTock and Snapchat are designed to maximize the results of persuasive designs. Offering “Like” buttons and heart-shaped emoticons, these sites allow for social signals of acceptance and approval, which greatly inspires teens. It takes minimal effort to scroll through the pages of these sites Finally, apps bombard regular users with their notifications and prompts.

For example, Snapchat encourages its users to send “Snap” at least once every 24 hours to stay in Snapstick mode (“It’s getting hot”). Adolescents are increasingly connecting to social networks for fear of missing feedback or updates from their friends.

For fear of missing their friends’ updates, teens are increasingly logging into the app.[plusenplusfréquemmentauxapplis[plusenplusfréquemmentauxapplis
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When it comes to video games, Fortnite lets players know they’re going to beat an opponent. This triggers a cognitive phenomenon called “Near Miss”, which encourages them to continue the game, as they are so close to victory that they have a chance to win next time. This is an example of how persuasive designs have shifted from adult gambling systems to digital video games targeting children and adolescents.

Moral problems

As a psychology researcher, I am concerned that psychologists are helping technology designers to apply psychological principles that children and adolescents spend more time on an app, game or site. Internet.

At the same time, other psychologists are researching the dangers of these activities, including anxiety, depression, attention deficit disorder and obesity. Still others have opened therapy centers to treat other mental disorders associated with video game addiction and excessive and problematic use of new technologies such as anxiety and depression.



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From my point of view, research field principles should not create a problem and work to solve it. The American Psychological Association is the largest professional association of psychologists in the United States. Their interaction with young people, who have not yet reached their full maturity.

So I believe that psychologists have an obligation to protect children from the effects of persuasive technology. Researchers collaborating with social media and game developers may think that they are helping these companies create dynamic and attractive products. But they cover their faces about the many emotional risks associated with using such products.

It’s okay for parents and their children to think about how games, videos and social media are driving young minds. Psychologists may try to explain how their brains develop and how persuasive design employs this process. This will help families to stop arguing about screen time and realize that the biggest threat comes not from electronic devices, but from companies that design these devices and apps to make us dependent.


Translated from English by Iris Le Guinio for Fast Forward

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