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A Dark Consensus About Screens and Kids Begins to Emerge in Silicon Valley

A Dark Consensus About Screens and Kids Begins to Emerge in Silicon Valley by an author (nytimes.com)
“I am convinced the devil lives in our phones.”
Nellie Bowles in The NY Times. All annotations in context.

The people who are closest to a thing are often the most wary of it. Technologists know how phones really work, and many have decided they don’t want their own children anywhere near them.

A wariness that has been slowly brewing is turning into a regionwide consensus: The benefits of screens as a learning tool are overblown, and the risks for addiction and stunting development seem high.

I’m not sure that there is any consensus drawn, or that benefits of edtech are overblown. We do, or perhaps I should say that we should, have concerns about addiction and impact on development.

Part of the challenge in this debate is that screens are everywhere.

Some of the people who built video programs are now horrified by how many places a child can now watch a video.

I’ll present this section without comment.

Athena Chavarria, who worked as an executive assistant at Facebook and is now at Mark Zuckerberg’s philanthropic arm, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, said: “I am convinced the devil lives in our phones and is wreaking havoc on our children.”

Ms. Chavarria did not let her children have cellphones until high school, and even now bans phone use in the car and severely limits it at home.

Chris Anderson, forer editor of Wired, and now the chief executive of a robotics and drone company…and founder of GeekDad.com weighs in.

“On the scale between candy and crack cocaine, it’s closer to crack cocaine,” Mr. Anderson said of screens.

Technologists building these products and writers observing the tech revolution were naïve, he said.

“We thought we could control it,” Mr. Anderson said. “And this is beyond our power to control. This is going straight to the pleasure centers of the developing brain. This is beyond our capacity as regular parents to understand.”

The article shares some other stories about people in technology that are terrified of screentime and are banning it with their children before sharing some anecdotes from parents in tech that indicate they find benefit in a measured approach with their children.

One of my favorite quotes is from Frank Barbieri, an executive from the start-up, PebblePost.

“We have friends who are screen abolitionists, and we have friends who are screen liberalists,” Mr. Barbieri said.

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