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Richard Freed

Child and adolescent psychologist, and the author of “Wired Child: Reclaiming Childhood in a Digital Age”

Mar 11, 2018

The Tech Industry’s War on Kids

How psychology is being used as a weapon against children

“We called the police because she wrecked her room and hit her mom… all because we took her phone,” Kelly’s father explained. He said that when the police arrived that evening, Kelly was distraught and told an officer that she wanted to kill herself. So an ambulance was called, and the 15-year-old was strapped to a gurney, taken to a psychiatric hospital, and monitored for safety before being released. Days after being hospitalized, Kelly was brought to my office by her parents who wanted to get help for their troubled girl.

Kelly’s parents spoke first. They said that their daughter’s hospitalization was the culmination of a yearlong downward spiral spurred by her phone obsession. Kelly had been refusing to spend time with her family or focus on school. Instead, she favored living her life on social media. A previously happy girl and strong student, Kelly had grown angry, sullen, and was now bringing home report cards with sinking grades. Kelly’s parents had tried many times in prior months to set limits on their daughter’s phone use, but she had become increasingly defiant and deceitful, even sneaking on her phone at all hours of the night.

When Kelly’s latest report card revealed a number of failing grades, her parents felt compelled to act. They told Kelly early in the afternoon on the day the police were called that she would need to turn in her phone by 9 p.m. But when the time came, Kelly refused, and a pushing match ensued between her and her parents, concluding in the violent tantrum that led the girl to be hospitalized.

I asked Kelly, who was sitting in a corner, to help me understand her perspective on that evening. She didn’t respond and instead glared at her parents. But then, surprising everyone in the room, she cried, “They took my f***ing phone!” Attempting to engage Kelly in conversation, I asked her what she liked about her phone and social media. “They make me happy,” she replied.

The Undoing of Families

As Kelly and her family continued their appointments with me in the coming months, two concerns dominated our meetings. The first was that Kelly’s unhealthy attachment to her phone continued, causing almost constant tension at home. The second concern emerged during my meetings with Kelly’s parents alone. Even though they were loving and involved parents, Kelly’s mom couldn’t help feeling that they’d failed their daughter and must have done something terribly wrong that led to her problems.

My practice as a child and adolescent psychologist is filled with families like Kelly’s. These parents say their kids’ extreme overuse of phones, video games, and social media is the most difficult parenting issue they faceand, in many cases, is tearing the family apart. Preteen and teen girls refuse to get off their phones, even though it’s remarkably clear that the devices are making them miserable. I also see far too many boys whose gaming obsessions lead them to forgo interest in school, extracurricular activities, and anything else productive. Some of these boys, as they reach their later teens, use their large bodies to terrorize parents who attempt to set gaming limits. A common thread running through many of these cases is parent guilt, as so many are certain they did something to put their kids on a destructive path.

What none of these parents understand is that their children’s and teens’ destructive obsession with technology is the predictable consequence of a virtually unrecognized merger between the tech industry and psychology. This alliance pairs the consumer tech industry’s immense wealth with the most sophisticated psychological research, making it possible to develop social media, video games, and phones with drug-like power to seduce young users.

These parents have no idea that lurking behind their kids’ screens and phones are a multitude of psychologists, neuroscientists, and social science experts who use their knowledge of psychological vulnerabilities to devise products that capture kids’ attention for the sake of industry profit. What these parents and most of the world have yet to grasp is that psychologya discipline that we associate with healingis now being used as a weapon against children.

“Machines Designed to Change Humans”

Nestled in an unremarkable building on the Stanford University campus in Palo Alto, California, is the Stanford Persuasive Technology Lab, founded in 1998. The lab’s creator, Dr. B.J. Fogg, is a psychologist and the father of persuasive technology, a discipline in which digital machines and appsincluding smartphones, social media, and video gamesare configured to alter human thoughts and behaviors. As the lab’s website boldly proclaims: “Machines designed to change humans.”

Fogg speaks openly of the ability to use smartphones and other digital devices to change our ideas and actions: “We can now create machines that can change what people think and what people do, and the machines can do that autonomously.” Called “the millionaire maker,” Fogg has groomed former students who have used his methods to develop technologies that now consume kids’ lives. As he recently touted on his personal website, “My students often do groundbreaking projects, and they continue having impact in the real world after they leave Stanford… For example, Instagram has influenced the behavior of over 800 million people. The co-founder was a student of mine.”

Intriguingly, there are signs that Fogg is feeling the heat from recent scrutiny of the use of digital devices to alter behavior. His boast about Instagram, which was present on his website as late as January of 2018, has been removed. Fogg’s website also has lately undergone a substantial makeover, as he now seems to go out of his way to suggest his work has benevolent aims, commenting, “I teach good people how behavior works so they can create products & services that benefit everyday people around the world.” Likewise, the Stanford Persuasive Technology Lab website optimistically claims, “Persuasive technologies can bring about positive changes in many domains, including health, business, safety, and education. We also believe that new advances in technology can help promote world peace in 30 years.”

While Fogg emphasizes persuasive design’s sunny future, he is quite indifferent to the disturbing reality now: that hidden influence techniques are being used by the tech industry to hook and exploit users for profit. His enthusiastic vision also conveniently neglects to include how this generation of children and teens, with their highly malleable minds, is being manipulated and hurt by forces unseen.

Weaponizing Persuasion

If you haven’t heard of persuasive technology, that’s no accidenttech corporations would prefer it to remain in the shadows, as most of us don’t want to be controlled and have a special aversion to kids being manipulated for profit. Persuasive technology (also called persuasive design) works by deliberately creating digital environments that users feel fulfill their basic human drivesto be social or obtain goalsbetter than real-world alternatives. Kids spend countless hours in social media and video game environments in pursuit of likes, “friends,” game points, and levelsbecause it’s stimulating, they believe that this makes them happy and successful, and they find it easier than doing the difficult but developmentally important activities of childhood.

While persuasion techniques work well on adults, they are particularly effective at influencing the still-maturing child and teen brain. “Video games, better than anything else in our culture, deliver rewards to people, especially teenage boys,” says Fogg. “Teenage boys are wired to seek competency. To master our world and get better at stuff. Video games, in dishing out rewards, can convey to people that their competency is growing, you can get better at something second by second.” And it’s persuasive design that’s helped convince this generation of boys they are gaining “competency” by spending countless hours on game sites, when the sad reality is they are locked away in their rooms gaming, ignoring school, and not developing the real-world competencies that colleges and employers demand.

Likewise, social media companies use persuasive design to prey on the age-appropriate desire for preteen and teen kids, especially girls, to be socially successful. This drive is built into our DNA, since real-world relational skills have fostered human evolution. The Huffington Post article, “What Really Happens On a Teen Girl’s iPhone” describes the life of 14-year-old Casey from Millburn, New Jersey. With 580 friends on Instagram and 1,110 on Facebook, she’s preoccupied with the number of “likes” her Facebook profile picture receives compared with her peers. As she says, “If you don’t get 100 ‘likes,’ you make other people share it so you get 100…. Or else you just get upset. Everyone wants to get the most ‘likes.’ It’s like a popularity contest.”

Article author Bianca Bosker says that there are costs to Casey’s phone obsession, noting that the “girl’s phone, be it Facebook, Instagram or iMessage, is constantly pulling her away from her homework, sleep, or conversations with her family.” Casey says she wishes she could put her phone down. But she can’t. “I’ll wake up in the morning and go on Facebook just… because,” she says. “It’s not like I want to or I don’t. I just go on it. I’m, like, forced to. I don’t know why. I need to. Facebook takes up my whole life.”

Important Questions Are Simply Not Asked

B.J. Fogg may not be a household name, but Fortune Magazine calls him a “New Guru You Should Know,” and his research is driving a worldwide legion of user experience (UX) designers who utilize and expand upon his models of persuasive design. As Forbes Magazine writer Anthony Wing Kosner notes, “No one has perhaps been as influential on the current generation of user experience (UX) designers as Stanford researcher B.J. Fogg.”

UX designers come from many disciplines, including psychology as well as brain and computer sciences. However, the core of some UX research is about using psychology to take advantage of our human vulnerabilities. That’s particularly pernicious when the targets are children. As Fogg is quoted in Kosner’s Forbes article, “Facebook, Twitter, Google, you name it, these companies have been using computers to influence our behavior.” However, the driving force behind behavior change isn’t computers. “The missing link isn’t the technology, it’s psychology,” says Fogg.

UX researchers not only often follow Fogg’s design model, but some may also share his apparent tendency to overlook the broader implications of persuasive design. They focus on the task at hand, building digital machines and apps that better demand users’ attention, compel users to return again and again, and grow businesses’ bottom line. Less considered can be how the world’s children are affected by thousands of UX designers working simultaneously to pull them onto a multitude of digital devices and products at the expense of real life.

According to B.J. Fogg, the “Fogg Behavior Model” is a well-tested method to change behavior and, in its simplified form, involves three primary factors: motivation, ability, and triggers. Describing how his formula is effective at getting people to use a social network, the psychologist says in an academic paper that a key motivator is users’ desire for “social acceptance,” although he says an even more powerful motivator is the desire “to avoid being socially rejected.” Regarding ability, Fogg suggests that digital products should be made so that users don’t have to “think hard.” Hence, social networks are designed for ease of use. Finally, Fogg says that potential users need to be triggered to use a site. This is accomplished by a myriad of digital tricks, including the sending of incessant notifications urging users to view friends’ pictures, telling them they are missing out while not on the social network, or suggesting that they checkyet againto see if anyone liked their post or photo.

Fogg’s formula is the blueprint for building multibillion dollar social media and gaming companies. However, moral questions about the impact of turning persuasive techniques on children and teens are not being asked. For example, should the fear of social rejection be used to compel kids to compulsively use social media? Is it okay to lure kids away from school tasks that demand a strong mental effort so they can spend their lives on social networks or playing video games that don’t make them think much at all? And is it okay to incessantly trigger kids to use revenue-producing digital products at the expense of engaging with family and other important real-life activities?

Brain Hacking

Persuasive technologies work because of their apparent triggering of the release of dopamine, a powerful neurotransmitter involved in reward, attention, and addiction. In the Venice region of Los Angeles, now dubbed “Silicon Beach,” the startup Dopamine Labs boasts about its use of persuasive techniques to increase profits: “Connect your app to our Persuasive AI [Artificial Intelligence] and lift your engagement and revenue up to 30% by giving your users our perfect bursts of dopamine,” and “A burst of Dopamine doesn’t just feel good: it’s proven to re-wire user behavior and habits.”

Ramsay Brown, the founder of Dopamine Labs, says in a KQED Science article, “We have now developed a rigorous technology of the human mind, and that is both exciting and terrifying. We have the ability to twiddle some knobs in a machine learning dashboard we build, and around the world hundreds of thousands of people are going to quietly change their behavior in ways that, unbeknownst to them, feel second-nature but are really by design.” Programmers call this “brain hacking,” as it compels users to spend more time on sites even though they mistakenly believe it’s strictly due to their own conscious choices.

Social networks and video games use the trusted brain-manipulation technique of variable reward (think slot machine). Users never know when they will get the next “like” or game reward, and it’s delivered at the perfect time to foster maximal stimulation and keep them on the site. Banks of computers employ AI to “learn” which of a countless number of persuasive design elements will keep users hooked. A persuasion profile of a particular user’s unique vulnerabilities is developed in real time and exploited to keep users on the site and make them return again and again for longer periods of time. This drives up profits for consumer internet companies whose revenue is based on how much their products are used.

Clandestine techniques that manipulate users to fulfill a profit motive are regarded by programmers as “dark design.” Why would firms resort to such tactics? As former tech executive Bill Davidow says in his Atlantic article“Exploiting the Neuroscience of Internet Addiction,” “The leaders of Internet companies face an interesting, if also morally questionable, imperative: either they hijack neuroscience to gain market share and make large profits, or they let competitors do that and run away with the market.”

There are few industries as cutthroat and unregulated as Silicon Valley. Social media and video game companies believe they are compelled to use persuasive technology in the arms race for attention, profits, and survival. Children’s well-being is not part of the decision calculus.

A Peek Behind the Curtain

While social media and video game companies have been surprisingly successful at hiding their use of persuasive design from the public, one breakthrough occurred in 2017 when Facebook documents were leaked to The Australian. The internal report crafted by Facebook executives showed the social network boasting to advertisers that by monitoring posts, interactions, and photos in real time, the network is able to track when teens feel “insecure,” “worthless,” “stressed,” “useless” and a “failure.” Why would the social network do this? The report also bragged about Facebook’s ability to micro-target ads down to “moments when young people need a confidence boost.”

Persuasive technology’s use of digital media to target children, deploying the weapon of psychological manipulation at just the right moment, is what makes it so powerful. These design techniques provide tech corporations a window into kids’ hearts and minds to measure their particular vulnerabilities, which can then be used to control their behavior as consumers. This isn’t some strange future… this is now. Facebook claimed the leaked report was misrepresented in the press. But when child advocates called on the social network to release it, the company refused to do so, preferring to keep the techniques it uses to influence kids shrouded in secrecy.

Digital Pied Pipers

The official tech industry line is that persuasive technologies are used to make products more engaging and enjoyable. But the revelations of industry insiders can reveal darker motives. Video game developer John Hopson, who has a Ph.D. in behavioral and brain science, wrote the paper “Behavioral Game Design.” He describes the use of design features to alter video game player behavior, sounding much like an experimenter running lab animals through their paces, answering questions such as: “How do we make players maintain a high, consistent rate of activity?” and “How to make players play forever.”

Revealing the hard science behind persuasive technology, Hopson says, “This is not to say that players are the same as rats, but that there are general rules of learning which apply equally to both.” After penning the paper, Hopson was hired by Microsoft, where he helped lead the development of the Xbox Live, Microsoft’s online gaming system. He also assisted in the development of Xbox games popular with kids, including those in the Halo series. The parents I work with simply have no idea about the immense amount of financial and psychological firepower aimed at their children to keep them playing video games “forever.”

Another persuasive technology expert is Bill Fulton, a game designer who trained in cognitive and quantitative psychology. He started Microsoft’s Games User-Research group before founding his own consulting agency. Fulton is transparent about the power of persuasive design and the intent of the gaming industry, disclosing in Big Four Accounting Firm PwC’s tech business journal: “If game designers are going to pull a person away from every other voluntary social activity or hobby or pastime, they’re going to have to engage that person at a very deep level in every possible way they can.”

This is a major effect of persuasive design today: building video games and social media products so compelling that they pull users away from the real world to spend their lives in for-profit domains. But to engage in a pursuit at the expense of important real-world activities is a core element of addiction. And there is increasing evidence that persuasive design has now become so potent that it is capable of contributing to video game and internet addictionsdiagnoses that are officially recognized in China, South Korea, and Japan, and which are under consideration in the U.S.

Not only does persuasive design appear to drive kids’ addictions to devices, but knowledge of addiction is used to make persuasive design more effective at hijacking the mind. As Dopamine Labs’ Ramsay Brown acknowledges in an episode of CBS’s 60 Minutes, “Since we’ve figured to some extent how these pieces of the brain that handle addiction are working, people have figured out how to juice them further and how to bake that information into apps.”

Stealing from Childhood

The creation of digital products with drug-like effects that are able to “pull a person away” from engaging in real-life activities is the reason why persuasive technology is profoundly destructive. Today, persuasive design is likely distracting adults from driving safely, productive work, and engaging with their own childrenall matters which need urgent attention. Still, because the child and adolescent brain is more easily controlled than the adult mind, the use of persuasive design is having a much more hurtful impact on kids.

Persuasive technologies are reshaping childhood, luring kids away from family and schoolwork to spend more and more of their lives sitting before screens and phones. According to a Kaiser Family Foundation report, younger U.S. children now spend 5 ½ hours each day with entertainment technologies, including video games, social media, and online videos. Even more, the average teen now spends an incredible 8 hours each day playing with screens and phones. Productive uses of technologywhere persuasive design is much less a factorare almost an afterthought, as U.S. kids only spend 16 minutes each day using the computer at home for school.

Quietly, using screens and phones for entertainment has become thedominant activity of childhood. Younger kids spend more time engaging with entertainment screens than they do in school, and teens spend even more time playing with screens and phones than they do sleeping. The result is apparent in restaurants, the car sitting next to you at the stoplight, and even many classrooms: Attesting to the success of persuasive technology, kids are so taken with their phones and other devices that they have turned their backs to the world around them. Hiding in bedrooms on devices, or consumed by their phones in the presence of family, many children are missing out on real-life engagement with family and schoolthe two cornerstones of childhood that lead them to grow up happy and successful. Even during the few moments kids have away from their devices, they are often preoccupied with one thought: getting back on them.

In addition to the displacement of healthy childhood activities, persuasive technologies are pulling kids into often toxic digital environments. A too frequent experience for many is being cyberbullied, which increases their risk of skipping school and considering suicide. And there is growing recognition of the negative impact of FOMO, or the fear of missing out, as kids spend their social media lives watching a parade of peers who look to be having a great time without them, feeding their feelings of loneliness and being less than.

A Wired Generation Falling Apart

The combined effects of the displacement of vital childhood activities and exposure to unhealthy online environments is wrecking a generation. In her recent Atlantic article, “Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation?,” Dr. Jean Twenge, a professor of psychology at San Diego State University, describes how long hours spent on smartphones and social media are driving teen girls in the U.S. to experience high rates of depression and suicidal behaviors.

And as the typical age when kids get their first smartphone has fallen to 10, it’s no surprise to see serious psychiatric problemsonce the domain of teensnow enveloping young kids. Self-inflicted injuries, such as cutting, that are serious enough to require treatment in an emergency room, have increased dramatically in 10- to 14-year-old girls, up 19% per year since 2009.

While girls are pulled onto smartphones and social media, boys are more likely to be seduced into the world of video gaming, often at the expense of a focus on school. High amounts of gaming are linked to lower grades, so with boys gaming more than girls, it’s no surprise to see this generation of boys struggling to make it to college: a full 57% of college admissions are granted to young women compared with only 43% to young men. And, as boys transition to manhood, they can’t shake their gaming habits. Economists working with the National Bureau of Economic Research recently demonstrated how many young U.S. men are choosing to play video games rather than join the workforce.

As a child and adolescent psychologist myself, the inevitable conclusion is both embarrassing and heartbreaking. The destructive forces of psychology deployed by the tech industry are making a greater impact on kids than the positive uses of psychology by mental health providers and child advocates. Put plainly, the science of psychology is hurting kids more than helping them.

The Awakening

Hope for this wired generation has seemed dim until recently, when a surprising group has come forward to criticize the tech industry’s use of psychological manipulation: tech executives. Tristan Harris, formerly a design ethicist at Google, has led the way by unmasking the industry’s use of persuasive design. Interviewed in The Economist’s 1843 magazine, he says, “The job of these companies is to hook people, and they do that by hijacking our psychological vulnerabilities.”

Another tech exec raising red flags about his tech industry’s use of mind manipulation is former Facebook president Sean Parker. Interviewed in Axios, he discloses: “The thought process that went into building these applications, Facebook being the first of them… was all about: ‘How do we consume as much of your time and conscious attention as possible?’” He also said that Facebook exploits “vulnerability in human psychology” and remarked, “God only knows what it’s doing to our children’s brains.”

A theme advanced by these tech execs is that the industry is unfairly using persuasive technology to gain a profit advantage. “Consumer internet businesses are about exploiting psychology,” Chamath Palihapitiya, a former Facebook VP says in a talk ironically given at B.J. Fogg’s Stanford University. “We want to psychologically figure out how to manipulate you as fast as possible and then give you back that dopamine hit.”

Having children of their own can change tech execs’ perspective. Tony Fadell, formerly at Apple, is considered the father of the iPad and also of much of the iPhone. He is also the founder and current CEO of Nest. “A lot of the designers and coders who were in their 20s when we were creating these things didn’t have kids. Now they have kids,” Fadell remarks, while speaking at the Design Museum in London. “And they see what’s going on, and they say, ‘Wait a second.’ And they start to rethink their design decisions.”

Marc Benioff, CEO of the cloud computing company Salesforce, is one of the voices calling for the regulation of social media companies because of their potential to addict children. He says that just as the cigarette industry has been regulated, so too should social media companies. “I think that, for sure, technology has addictive qualities that we have to address, and that product designers are working to make those products more addictive, and we need to rein that back as much as possible,” Benioff told CNBC in January, 2018, while in Davos, Switzerland, site of the World Economic Forum.

Benioff says that parents should do their part to limit their kids’ devices, yet expressed, “If there’s an unfair advantage or things that are out there that are not understood by parents, then the government’s got to come forward and illuminate that.” Since millions of parents, for example the parents of my patient Kelly, have absolutely no idea that devices are used to hijack their children’s minds and lives, regulation of such practices is the right thing to do.

Another improbable group to speak out on behalf of children is tech investors. Major Apple stockholdersthe hedge fund Jana Partners and California State Teachers’ Retirement System, which collectively own $2 billion in the firm’s stockhave recently raised concerns that persuasive design is contributing to kids’ suffering. In an open letter to Apple, the investors, teaming up with leading child technology experts, detailed evidence that kids’ overuse of phones and devices is leading to their increased risk of depression and suicide risk factors. Specifically calling out the destructive impact of persuasive technology, the letter reads: “It is also no secret that social media sites and applications for which the iPhone and iPad are a primary gateway are usually designed to be as addictive and time-consuming as possible.”

Going Lower

How has the consumer tech industry responded to these calls for change? By going even lower. Facebook recently launched Messenger Kids, a social media app that will reach kids as young as five years old. Suggestive that harmful persuasive design is now honing in on very young children is the declarationof Messenger Kids Art Director, Shiu Pei Luu, “We want to help foster communication [on Facebook] and make that the most exciting thing you want to be doing.”

Facebook’s narrow-minded vision of childhood is reflective of how out of touch the social network and other consumer tech companies are with the needs of an increasingly troubled generation. The most “exciting thing” for young children should be spending time with family, playing outside, engaging in creative play, and other vital developmental experiencesnot being drawn into the social media vortex on phones or tablets. Moreover, Facebook Messenger Kids is giving an early start to the wired life on social media that we know poses risks of depression and suicide-related behavior for older children.

In response to the release of Facebook’s Messenger Kids, the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood (CCFC) sent Facebook a letter signed by numerous health advocates calling on the company to pull the plug on the app. Facebook has yet to respond to the letter and instead continues to aggressively market Messenger Kids for young children.

The Silence of a Profession

While tech execs and investors are speaking out against the tech industry’s psychological manipulation of children, the American Psychological Association (APA)which is tasked with protecting children and families from harmful psychological practiceshas been essentially silent on the matter. This is not suggestive of malice; instead, the APA leadershipmuch like parentsis likely unaware of the tech industry’s distorted use of psychology. Nonetheless, there is irony, as psychologists and their powerful tools are guided by ethics, while tech execs and investors are not.

The Ethics Code of the APA, U.S psychology’s chief professional organization, is quite clear: “Psychologists strive to benefit those with whom they work and take care to do no harm.” Moreover, APA Ethical Standards require the profession to make efforts to correct the “misuse” of the work of psychologists, which would include the application of B.J. Fogg’s persuasive technologies to influence children against their best interests. The code even provides special protection to kids because their developmental “vulnerabilities impair autonomous decision making.”

Manipulating children for profit without their own or parents’ consent, and driving kids to spend more time on devices that contribute to emotional and academic problems is the embodiment of unethical psychological practice. Silicon Valley corporations and the investment firms that support them are heavily populated by highly privileged white men who use concealed mind-bending techniques to control the lives of defenseless kids. Addressing this inequity is Tristan Harris, who says, “Never before in history have basically 50 mostly men, mostly 20–35, mostly white engineer designer types within 50 miles of where we are right now [Silicon Valley], had control of what a billion people think and do.” Harris was recounting an excerpt of a presentation he made while at Google during an interview with journalist Kara Swisher for Recode Decode in February of 2017.

Some may argue that it’s the parents’ responsibility to protect their children from tech industry deception. However, parents have no idea of the powerful forces aligned against them, nor do they know how technologies are developed with drug-like effects to capture kids’ minds. Parents simply can’t protect their children or teens from something that’s concealed and unknown to them.

Others will claim that nothing should be done because the intention behind persuasive design is to build better products, not manipulate kids. In fact, for those working in the user experience and persuasion fields, I’m sure there is no intent to harm children. The negative consequences of persuasive technology have been for the most part accidental, an unfortunate byproduct of an exceptionally competitive design process. However, similar circumstances exist in the cigarette industry, as tobacco companies have as their intention profiting from the sale of their product, not hurting children. Nonetheless, because cigarettes and persuasive design predictably harm children, actions should be taken to protect kids from their effects.

A Conscience in an Age of Machines

Since its inception, the field of persuasive technology has operated in a moral vacuum. The resulting tragedy is not surprising.

In truth, the harmful potential of using persuasive design has long been recognized. Fogg, himself, says in a 1999 journal article, “Persuasive computers can also be used for destructive purposes; the dark side of changing attitudes and behaviors leads toward manipulation and coercion.” And in a 1998 academic paper, Fogg describes what should happen if things go wrong, saying, if persuasive technologies are “deemed harmful or questionable in some regard, a researcher should then either take social action or advocate that others do so.”

More recently, Fogg has actually acknowledged the ill effects of persuasive design. Interviewed by Ian Leslie in 2016 for The Economist’s 1843 Magazine, Fogg says, “I look at some of my former students and I wonder if they’re really trying to make the world better, or just make money.” And in 2017 when Fogg was interviewed by 032c Magazine, he acknowledged, “You look around the restaurants and pretty much everyone has their phone on the table and they’re just being constantly drawn away from the live face-to-face interactionI do think that’s a bad thing.” Nonetheless, Fogg hasn’t taken meaningful action to help those hurt by the field he fathered. Nor have those in positions of power, with the recent exception of tech execs coming forward, done anything to limit the manipulative and coercive use of digital machines against children and teens.

So, how can children be protected from the tech industry’s use of persuasive design? I suggest turning to President John F. Kennedy’s prescient guidance: He said that technology “has no conscience of its own. Whether it will become a force for good or ill depends on man.” I believe that the psychology profession, with its understanding of the mind and ethics code as guidance, can step forward to become a conscience guiding how tech corporations interact with children and teens.

The APA should begin by demanding that the tech industry’s behavioral manipulation techniques be brought out of the shadows and exposed to the light of public awareness. Changes should be made in the APA’s Ethics Code to specifically prevent psychologists from manipulating children using digital machines, especially if such influence is known to pose risks to their well-being. Moreover, the APA should follow its Ethical Standards by making strong efforts to correct the misuse of psychological persuasion by the tech industry and by user experience designers outside the field of psychology.

There is more the psychology profession can and should do to protect children and rectify the harm being done to kids. It should join with tech executives who are demanding that persuasive design in kids’ tech products be regulated. The APA also should make its powerful voice heard amongst the growing chorus calling out tech companies that intentionally exploit children’s vulnerabilities. And the APA must make stronger and bolder efforts to educate parents, schools, and fellow child advocates about the harms of kids’ overuse of digital devices.

With each passing day, new and more influential persuasive technologies are being deployed to better take advantage of children’s and teens’ inherent limitations. The psychology profession must insist in this new age that its tools be used to improve rather than hinder children’s health and well-being. By making a strong statement against the exploitive use of persuasive design, the APA and the psychology profession can help provide the conscience needed to guide us in this age of dangerously powerful digital machines.




我们打电话给警察,因为她弄坏了她的房间,还打了她的妈妈都是因为我们拿了她的手机,”  Kelly的爸爸解释道. 他说警察到来的那个晚上,Kelly已经心神错乱,并且告诉一名警官说她想自杀. 因此他们叫来了救护车, 这个15岁的女孩被绑在了轮床上, 被带到了精神病院,并且在被释放前都进行安全监控.住院几天后, Kelly被她的父母带到了我的办公室,他们想为他们陷入困境的女孩寻求帮助

Kelly的父母先开口说话了. 他们说, 他们女儿的住院治疗是她手机痴迷引发的长达一年的恶性循环的结果. Kelly曾一直拒绝与家人共度时光,或者专注于学校. 相反的, 她喜欢在社交媒体上过自己的生活. 曾经是一个快乐的女孩,坚强的学生, Kelly现在已经变得易怒,沉闷,还带着下降的成绩单回家.Kelly的父母在前几个月已经试过很多次限制他们女儿使用手机的次数,但是她越来越挑衅和欺骗,甚至整晚都在偷看手机。

Kelly最近的成绩单显示她那些不及格的成绩的时候,她的父母感觉到不得不采取行动了.他们在当天下午早些的时候告诉Kelly, 他们已经叫了警察,她需要在晚上9点前把手机上交. 但是时间到了的时候, Kelly拒绝了, 她和父母之间发生了一些推搡,在暴力事件之后, 女孩被送进了医院。



   我问坐在角落里的Kelly, 请她帮我理解她关于那个晚上(发生的事情)的看法. 她没有回答我,相反的,她瞪着她的父母. 但接着, 让房间里每个人都很意外的是,她哭诉道,” 他们抢走了我该死的手机!试图让Kelly参与对话, 我问她喜欢她手机和社交媒体里的哪些东西.”它们让我觉得很快乐.”她回答道。



随着接下来几个月, Kelly和她的家人与我持续的约见, 两个问题主导了我们的会面. 第一个是Kelly对手机不健康的依恋继续存在,在家里造成了几乎持续的紧张氛围. 第二个问题出现在我和凯利的父母单独见面的时候. 尽管他们是有爱和参与的父母,凯利的母亲却忍不住觉得他们辜负了他们的女儿,并且一定是做了一些非常错误的事情导致了她的问题。

在我作为一个儿童和青少年心理学家的实践里,非常多是像凯利这样的家庭. 这些父母说他们的孩子过度使用手机,视频游戏和社交媒体是他们面临的最困难的育儿问题-而且,在很多情况下,这些正在拆散他们的家庭. 十几岁的孩子和青少年女孩拒绝离开手机,尽管很明显这些设备让他们痛苦不堪.我也看到了太多的男孩子痴迷游戏,导致他们放弃对学校,课外活动和其他任何有益的事物的兴趣. 其中一些男孩,因为他们到了十几岁的青少年,使用他们的强大的身躯来恐吓那些试图设定游戏限制的父母. 贯穿其中许多案件的一个共同点是父母的负罪感,因为很多人认为肯定是他们做了一些事情让他们的孩子走上了破坏性的道路。


这些父母都不明白的是,他们的孩子和青少年对科技的破坏性的痴迷,是科技行业与心理学之间几乎未被承认的合并的可预见的结果. 这一联盟将消费科技行业的巨额财富与最复杂的心理学研究结合起来, 这使得开发具有类似毒品效力的社交媒体、视频游戏和手机的成为可能,从而诱惑年轻用户。


这些父母并不知道,潜伏在他们孩子的屏幕和手机背后的是众多的心理学家,神经科学家和社会科学专家,他们利用他们心理脆弱性知识来设计产品,吸引孩子的注意力,以牟取行业利益. 这些父母和世界上大多数人还没有掌握的是,心理学——一种我们将其与治疗联系在一起的学科——现在正被用作对付儿童的武器。



坐落在加州帕洛阿尔托斯坦福大学校园里的一栋不起眼的建筑里,是斯坦福大学的劝导技术实验室,成立于1998年。该实验室的创建者, B.J. Fogg博士是一位心理学家,也是劝导技术之父,在这个学科中,数字机器和应用程序——包括智能手机、社交媒体和视频游戏——被配置为改变人类的思想和行为。正如该实验室的网站大胆宣称的那样:机器被设计用来改变人类。










 虽然说服技巧在成人身上效果很好,但它们在影响仍然成熟的儿童和青少年大脑方面特别有效。电子游戏比我们文化中的任何东西都要好,它能给人们带来回报,尤其是青少年。Fogg 十几岁的男孩天生就会寻求能力。去掌握我们的世界,在事物上做得更好。电子游戏,在分发奖励的时候,可以向人们传达他们的能力在增长,每一秒你都在变得更好。这是一种说服性的设计,它帮助说服了这一代的男孩,他们通过在游戏网站上花费无数的时间来获得能力,而可悲的现实是,他们被锁在房间里玩游戏,无视学校,不发展大学和雇主所要求的现实世界的能力。


文章作者Bianca Bosker说,凯西对手机的痴迷是有代价的,指出,女孩的手机,无论是FacebookInstagram还是iMessage,都在不断地把她从家庭作业、睡眠或与家人的谈话中拉出来。凯西说,她希望她能放下电话。但她做不到。我会在早上醒来,然后去Facebook…因为,” 她说,“这不是我想要这样或者不想要这样。我只是继续。我,就好像,是被迫去做的。我不知道为什么。我需要这样做。Facebook占据了我的整个人生。



Fogg可能不是一个家喻户晓的名字,但是财富杂志称他为你应该知道的新导师,他的研究正在推动世界范围内的用户体验(UX)设计师,他们利用并扩展他的劝导式设计模型。正如福布斯杂志作家Anthony Wing Kosner所指出的,在当前这一代用户体验(UX)设计师中,没有人能像斯坦福大学的研究员B.J. Fogg那样有影响力。







说服性技术之所以有效,是因为它们明显引发了多巴胺的释放,多巴胺是一种强大的涉及奖励,注意力和上瘾的神经递质。洛杉矶的威尼斯地区,现在被称为硅海滩,启动多巴胺实验室吹嘘其使用有说服力的技术来增加利润:“将你的应用连接到我们有说服力的人工智能上,通过给你的用户提供完美的多巴胺,将你的参与度和收入提升到30%“ 还有多巴胺的爆发不仅仅让人感觉良好:它被证明可以重新连接用户的行为和习惯。

多巴胺实验室的创始人拉姆齐布朗在一篇科学论文中说,我们现在已经开发出了一种人类思维的严格技术,这既令人兴奋又令人恐惧。我们有能力在我们构建的机器学习控制面板中转动一些旋钮,在世界各地,成千上万的人会悄悄地改变他们的行为方式,他们不知道的是,他们感觉自己是第二天性,但实际上是通过设计来实现的。 程序员们称其为大脑黑客,因为它迫使用户花更多的时间在网站上,尽管他们错误地认为这是由于他们自己的有意识选择。










官方的技术产业线是,有说服力的技术被用来使产品更吸引人、更有趣。但业内人士的爆料可能揭示出更黑暗的动机。视频游戏开发者John Hopson,他拥有行为和大脑科学的博士学位,他写了一篇论文行为游戏设计。他描述了使用设计功能来改变视频游戏玩家的行为,听起来就像一个实验员通过他们的补发来操作实验动物,回答诸如:我们如何让玩家保持高效、一致的活动率?以及如何让玩家永远玩下去

揭示说服技术背后的硬科学,霍普森说:这并不是说球员和老鼠是一样的,而是有普遍的学习规则,这两种规则都是一样的。在写完这篇论文后,霍普森被微软聘用,在那里他帮助领导了Xbox Live的开发,这是微软的在线游戏系统。他还协助开发了深受孩子们欢迎的Xbox游戏,包括《光晕系列》游戏。与我一起工作的父母根本不知道,(商家的火力瞄准他们的孩子)需要大量的金钱和精力,以让他们的孩子永远玩电子游戏。

另一位有说服力的技术专家是比尔富尔顿,他是一名游戏设计师,曾接受过认知和定量心理学的培训。在创立自己的咨询公司之前,他创立了微软的游戏用户研究小组。富尔顿是公开了说服性设计的力量和游戏产业的目的,披露在四大会计师事务所普华永道科技商业日报:“如果游戏设计者要拉一个人远离其他自愿社会活动,爱好或者消遣, 们将不得不尽可能地以非常深刻的方式让那个人参与其中。

这是今天劝导式设计的一个主要影响:制作视频游戏和社交媒体产品,如此引人注目,以至于他们把用户从现实世界中拉出来,把他们的生命花在营利性领域。但是,以牺牲重要的现实世界活动为代价来进行追求是上瘾的一个核心要素。越来越多的证据表明,有说服力的设计已经变得如此强大,以至于它能够为视频游戏和网络成瘾做出贡献-- 这些诊断在中国,韩国和日本得到官方认可,且美国正在考虑中。

劝导式设计不仅会让孩子们对设备上瘾,而且还会利用上瘾的知识使劝导式设计更有效地劫持大脑。正如多巴胺实验室的Ramsay Brown在哥伦比亚广播公司的60分钟节目中所承认的那样,由于我们已经在某种程度上意识到,这些处理成瘾问题的大脑是如何运作的,人们已经找到了如何进一步提高它们的能量,以及如何将这些信息植入应用中的方法。

















这些科技高管提出的一个主题是,该行业不公平地使用说服技术来获得利润优势。消费者互联网企业是在利用心理学,Facebook副总裁Chamath PalihapitiyaB.J. Fogg斯坦福大学的讽刺演讲中说。我们想要从心理上知道如何尽快地控制你,然后再给回你多巴胺的刺激。

拥有自己的孩子可以改变科技行业高管的视角。曾供职于苹果公司的Tony Fadell,被认为是iPad之父,也是iPhone的鼻祖。他还是Nest的创始人和现任CEO很多20多岁的设计师和程序员在创造这些东西的时候都没有孩子。现在他们有了孩子,” Fadell在伦敦的设计博物馆演讲时说。他们看到了发生了什么,他们说,等一下。’ 他们开始重新思考他们的设计决策。





 另一个代表儿童发言的不太可能的群体是科技投资者。苹果公司的主要股东——对冲基金Jana Partners和加州州立教师退休系统——共同拥有20亿美元的公司股票——最近引起了人们的担忧,即劝导式设计是造成孩子们的痛苦的原因之一。在一封致苹果的公开信中,投资者与领先的儿童技术专家合作,详细证明了孩子过度使用手机和设备会增加患抑郁症和自杀的风险。信中特别指出了说服性技术的破坏性影响,信中写道:“iPhoneiPad作为主要门户的社交媒体网站和应用程序通常被设计成让人上瘾和耗时,这也不是什么秘密。



消费科技行业如何应对这些要求变革的呼声?通过使产品更年幼化Facebook最近推出了Messenger Kids,这是一款5岁孩子都可以使用的社交媒体应用。暗示有害的说服性设计现在正在对非常年幼的孩子进行磨练, 这是Messenger Kids总监,Shiu Pei Luu的宣言我们想要帮助促进Facebook上的交流,让这成为你想要做的最令人兴奋的事情。

Facebook对童年的狭隘观念反映出,社交网络和其他消费科技公司是如何与日益困扰的一代的需求脱节的。对于小孩子来说,最令人兴奋的事情应该是和家人在一起,在户外玩耍,参与创造性游戏,以及其他重要的发展经历——而不是被卷入手机或平板电脑的社交媒体漩涡中。此外,Facebook Messenger Kids在社交媒体上早早就开始了有线生活,我们知道这些社交媒体会给年龄较大的孩子带来抑郁和与自杀相关行为的风险。

为了响应FacebookMessenger Kids发布,非商业化童年的运动(CCFC)Facebook发送了一封由许多健康倡导者签名的信,呼吁该公司取消该应用程序。Facebook尚未回复这封信,而是继续积极地为年幼的孩子推销Messenger Kids






在没有得到父母同意的情况下操纵孩子的利益,并驱使孩子们花更多的时间在那些导致情感和学术问题的设备上,这是不道德的心理实践的体现。硅谷的公司和支持他们的投资公司都是由高度特权的白人男性组成的,他们使用隐蔽的精神扭曲技术来控制毫无防备的孩子们的生活。强调这一不平等问题的是特里斯坦哈里斯,他说:历史上从未有过50个主要是男性,主要是2035岁的人,大部分是白人工程师,在我们现在的硅谷50英里范围内,控制着10亿人的想法和行动。哈里斯在20172月接受记者Kara Swisher采访Recode Decode期间,讲述了他在Google期间所做的演讲摘录。








那么,如何保护儿童不受科技行业使用说服性设计的影响呢?我建议转向约翰肯尼迪总统的先见之明:他说,技术它本身没有道德心。它是否会成为一种好的或者坏的力量,取决于人。 我相信,心理学专业,以其对精神和道德准则的理解为指导,可以向前迈进,成为一种道德指导,指导科技公司如何与儿童和青少年互动。











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Go To Solid Food 干 粮 To See More Regarding "The Rod"




You may have all the riches of the world and travel and do as you please, but only these two things are most important in life:


1)  To believe on the Lord Jesus Christ to have your sins forgiven and for the free gift of eternal salvation.  You want to be sure you have eternal life in the new heaven and earth that is coming and not to suffer for all eternity in the Lake of Fire for your sins and unbelief.

God says,    耶稣说了 Acts 16:30f  使徒行传16:30f

What must I do to be saved?
And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.



2)  As a Christian, you want to enter the Kingdom of Heaven which is the Millennial reign of Christ on earth for 1000 years.  This entering into the Kingdom of Heaven is based on your works which will be judged at the Judgment Seat of Christ.  Only faithful believers will enter, unfaithful believers will suffer for the 1000 years. (Read the books on the "Solid Food" section of this website.)

God says, 耶稣说了2 Cor 5:10哥林多后书5:10

For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things [done] in [his] body, according to that he hath done, whether [it be] good or bad.

Matthew 7:21吗太福音7:21

Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.


得以长大成人,满有基督长成的身量。   4:13

"Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God,
unto a perfect man , unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ"
Ephesians 4:13    King James Version

习练得通达,就能分辨好歹了。希 5:14

"But strong meat belongs to them that are of full age (but solid food is for the mature), even those who by reason of use (by practice) have their senses exercised (trained) to discern both good and evil."
Hebrews 5:14    King James Version


The Purpose of www.zhangdaderen.com:


To help Christians grow to maturity as Ephesians 4:13 teaches.


Method to help Christians grow to maturity:

1) 阐述基督教信仰的基要真理和原则,正如彼得前书2:2  所述,这些乃是"纯净的灵奶"

1) Presenting basic Christian truths & principles, 1 Peter 2:2, "pure milk of the Word."

2) 深入探讨"那个信心"(以弗所书4:13),以及"天国的道理"(马太福音13:19),并"干粮"(希伯来书5:14),若是没有 这些的真理和原则, 没有人能够进入成熟的地步#27493;。

2) Focusing on "the faith," Ephesians 4:13, and "the Word of the Kingdom," Matthew 13:19, and "solid food," Hebrews 5:14, that without these truths and principles, one will never grow to maturity.

Faith   Hope  Love

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