59 percent of parents
reported they felt their
teens were addicted
to social media.
Surprisingly, 50 percent
of teens agreed.
October/November 2017 77
CLOCKWISE FROM TOP RIGHT: SHUTTERSTOCK; COURTESY OF SCILLA ANDREEN; COURTESY OF LISA TABB
how technology could influence people’s behaviors. He is also the
founder of Stanford’s Persuasive Technology lab and wrote the
book “Persuasive Technology: Using Computers to Change What
We Think and Do.”
“I did the science that supported the idea that ‘this can happen.’
And once we did enough experiments, we said, ‘This is going to
happen.’ I outlined some of the positive scenarios of possible technology
related behavioral changes, mostly in the health arena, and
some of my students outlined some of the negative aspects of it.”
Fogg, who had Tristan Harris and Instagram co-founder Mike
Krieger as students, points to technology that might help diabetics
change their behavior, directing people toward buying sustainable
products, or helping someone navigate traffic.
He believes that while some apps and technologies do seem to
have addictive properties, it’s important not to blanket-blame all
of them, or vilify all developers who create compelling experiences
for teens. “There are the apps that we use all the time, like weather,
and music and news. Mobile is just a platform for delivering an
experience,” says Fogg. “For example, I use Waze to get to Stanford
and see traffic. Am I addicted to Waze? No, but do I use it
all the time? Yes, because it’s super helpful, and if I didn’t use it, I
could be spending another hour in traffic,” he adds.
While Fogg champions the work of Harris, he disagrees with
him on some points, particularly in how to solve the problem of
“I think it’s with individual families and institutions,” he says.
“People already are creating policies about when and how to use
phones. I think people just need more guidance along those lines.”
Harris takes more of a multipronged approach to the problem.
In addition to calling out the developers who create apps that are
hard to resist, he also calls on consumers to demand better technology.
The Time Well Spent site includes charts where people
can rate apps in terms of how they reflect “time well spent.” It
also offers tips on how to change tech addictive behavior, such as
changing settings to turn off all notifications, except those from
real people, and not sleeping with your phone.
“The ultimate freedom is a free mind,” Harris writes, “and we
need technology that’s on our team to help us live, feel, think and
act freely.” n
The impact of mobile
phones is highlighted in
the film “Screenagers.”
is explored in
the indie film