TV Campaign Warns of Addiction to Online Content

Google and Facebook are the targets of advocacy groups and ex-employees who say they should make their products less addictive to children.

Former investors and workers – and organizations such as Common Sense Media and the Center for Humane Technology – are expressing concern about the potential mental health consequences of these services.

Tristan Harris at Common Sense -- who was once a design ethicist for Google – told USA Today: "They've created the attention economy and are now engaged in a full-blown arms race to capture and retain human attention, including the attention of kids. Technologists, engineers, and designers have the power and responsibility to hold themselves accountable and build products that create a better world.”

Professor Garth Jowett of the University of Houston, an expert in popular culture, tells Newsradio 740 KTRH that he sees an emerging problem with a generation addicted to the distractions on their devices.

The Center for Humane Technology says the potential effects on children include attention and cognition disorders, stress and anxiety.

Technology designed without ethics or regulations, activists say, can run amok.

Sean Parker, Facebook’s founding president of Facebook, has told the Axios news website that he worked with other executives to create a "social-validation feedback loop" to make Facebook psychologically addictive. It’s a comment that has been cited by critics several times since.

The message about the potentially harmful addictive elements of online products will soon make its way to TV.

The “Truth About Tech” TV campaign will be funded by $7 million from Common Sense and will also take advantage of donated airtime from Comcast and DirecTV, according to USA Today.

The groups “say they will work together to develop standards for ethically designing technology that discourages addiction and to push for regulation of tech companies,” the newspaper reported.

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