Your Kid’s Phone Is Not Like a Cigarette

Interesting editorial in today’s NY Times.  Here’s an excerpt:

A new national ad campaign, “Truth About Tech,” is designed to expose the ways that platforms like YouTube, Snapchat and Facebook are harmful to children and to “protect young minds from digital manipulation and exploitation.”

Organized by the nonprofits Common Sense and the Center for Humane Technology, it has been compared by its organizers to the “Truth” anti-tobacco campaign, which, beginning in 1999, rolled out ads — including images of body bags placed outside a major tobacco company to represent the number of people killed by tobacco each day — that are credited with helping to slash teenage smoking rates.

“Think of it like the Truth campaign for cigarettes. If you remember the 1990s TV ads, it was not saying, ‘Hey, this is going to have this bad health consequences for you if you smoke,’” Tristan Harris, the founder and executive director of the Center for Humane Technology, said in a February interview about the campaign with Vox.com. “The Truth campaign was about telling you the truth about how they design it deliberately to be addictive.”

But an anti-tobacco campaign is not an ideal model for the effort to make technology safer for children. Because while there’s plenty of concern about overuse of technology among young people, the actual evidence of addictiveness and harm is much more complex than it was in the case of cigarettes.

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