This isn't a workshop about how damaging smartphones are. I'm well aware that we have smartphones to thank for connecting us to each other, telling us how to get where we're going, and helping us to share information instantly and for free. Besides, there are already plenty of people screaming from the rooftops about how kids are online too much. It's been scientifically proven that multi-tasking online hurts your brain. I really don't need to add my voice to that crowd.
But I do have something to say about smartphones. When parents and teens argue about how much the phone is being used, they becomes locked in a power struggle that nobody wins. The solution is far more complicated - yet effective - than simply taking the phone away. It's to change the relationship between the phone and its user. We want the phone to be a tool that enhances our life, and not a tool that Silicon Valley uses to hook and manipulate us.
The consumer tech industry has paired with advanced psychological research to exploit our vulnerabilities and give their products a drug-like effect that we'll find irresistible. They make a profit when they can get us to look at the phone as often as possible - and for as long as possible. It's called "persuasive technology." They use colors, shapes, sounds and reward systems to get us to check it compulsively, the way a lab rat demonstrates operant conditioning by pushing a lever to get a pellet.
We can take back control by changing the settings on our phone, understanding the way behavior, thoughts, and feelings affect each other, and making small changes to our behavior. I look forward to showing students how to do all these things at Woodland Hills Academy next week.