The Truth About Kids and Technology: Jean Twenge (iGen) and Nir Eyal (Hooked) Discuss Tech’s Effect on Children’s Mental Health

Recently, I was invited to discuss how technology might impact children’s mental health at the Johnson Depression Center at the University of Colorado. I shared the stage with Dr. Jean Twenge, author of the book iGen and an article in The Atlantic that got a lot of attention titled, “Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation?

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Dr. Twenge and I had very different perspectives on how bad technology is for kids and whether tech is even the real source of the associated problems. However, we did agree on many of the solutions to tech overuse and abuse.

I hope you enjoy the video and please let me know what you think of the discussion in the comments.

You may also enjoy these articles I’ve written about digital distraction, focus, and kids and technology:
Fundamental Attribution Error: Why You Make Terrible Life Choices

Fundamental Attribution Error: Why You Make Terrible Life Choices

Nir’s Note: This post part of a series on cognitive bias co-authored by Nir Eyal and illustrated by Lakshmi Mani. Discover other reasons you make terrible life choices like confirmation bias, hyperbolic discounting and distinction bias.

There I was, sitting in a packed movie theatre. I waited two years for this sequel and I’ve got enough popcorn and diet soda to last me a full three hours. Fifteen minutes into the movie, the hero and villain are facing off for the first time when a lady bursts into the theater. Trying to find a seat, she awkwardly tries to squeeze into the middle of the row in front of me blocking the best part of the movie. “What a rude and inconsiderate person!” I think to myself as I dodge her body when she scuffles by.

A week later I’m rushing to catch another film with my friends. It’s pouring rain and traffic is crazy. I hope I make it before the previews end but when I reach the theater (soaking wet I might add), the movie has already begun. I have to turn on the flashlight on my phone to find my seat and accidentally step on a few movie goers’ toes. I hear tuts and loud sighs. It’s clear these people think I’m a complete jerk. (more…)

Kids’ Video Game Obsession Isn’t Really About Video Games. It’s About Unmet Psychological Needs.

Kids’ Video Game Obsession Isn’t Really About Video Games. It’s About Unmet Psychological Needs.

Many parents are concerned with their child’s seemingly obsessive video game play. Fortnite, the most recent gaming phenomenon, has taken the world by storm and has parents asking whether the shooter game is okay for kids.

The short answer is yes, Fortnite is generally fine. Furthermore, parents can breathe easier knowing that research suggests gaming (on its own) does not cause disorders like addiction.

However, there’s more to the story. A comprehensive answer to the question of whether video games are harmful must take into account other factors. Fortnite is just the latest example of a pastime some kids spend more time on than is good for them. But parents need to understand why kids play as well as when to worry and when to relax. (more…)

Here’s How Fortnite ‘Hooked’ Millions

Here’s How Fortnite ‘Hooked’ Millions

Nir’s Note: This guest post is by Patricio O’Gorman, technology consultant and professor at Universidad de Palermo.

If you have kids, you’ve likely heard about Fortnite. The wildly popular online battle game has amassed over 125 million players and hosts more than 3 million concurrent players. The game “has brought in more revenue in a single month than any other game of its kind,” according to industry watchers, grossing over $1 billion so far this year.

The average Fortnite player spends between 6 and 10 hours per week on the game and like many parents, I didn’t understand why my kids played it so much. At first, I dismissed it as a mind-numbing waste of time. Then, I tried it for myself and found I couldn’t help but admire the game’s ingenious design. To my surprise, I had a heck of a good time playing the game with my kids.

What makes Fortnite so engaging? To understand why players keep coming back, you need to understand the game’s Hook. (more…)

How Bad is Tech Use for Kids, Really?

How Bad is Tech Use for Kids, Really?

It feels impossible to tell if the technology our kids use should be celebrated or feared. A few years ago I wrote a book, Hooked, about how technology can be used to change our habits. I intended the book to teach startups how to build healthy habits, but now I’m not so sure. With headlines telling us technology is hijacking our brains, I started second guessing the impact of our devices, especially when it comes to our kids.

How alarmed should we be? Is this a crisis or a fear frenzy? I wanted to understand what the studies really tell us about the effect personal technology is having on our children.

One side clearly believes the kids are not okay. “It’s not an exaggeration to describe iGen as being on the brink of the worst mental-health crisis in decades,” wrote Dr. Jean Twenge, a professor of Psychology at San Diego State University in an article in The Atlantic.1 “Much of this deterioration can be traced to their phones.”

(more…)