How the Tech Industry Uses Psychology to Hook Children

Why do kids struggle to look up from devices? The answer is persuasive design.

“Something’s wrong with my son. He won’t spend time with us, won’t do his homework… all he wants to do is be in his room and play his game.”

Parents, educators, and health professionals around the world are expressing frustration and alarm that children are being lost to video games, social media, and phones. What’s vital to understand is that children’s fixation with gadgets and entertainment applications is by design. Actually, a relatively new concept called persuasive design.

Persuasive design has been in the news a lot recently. Put simply, persuasive design is the practice of combining psychology and technology to change people’s behavior. Gadgets and applications are developed by psychologists and other user experience (UX) researchers who apply behavioral change techniques to manipulate users. The concept can sound scary, however, these techniques can be used to encourage positive behaviors, such as exercise, healthy eating, and smoking cessation.

Nonetheless, persuasive design is increasingly employed by video game and social media companies to pull users onto their sites and keep them there for as long as possible—as this drives revenue. While persuasive design is applied through technology, the power to alter behavior is primarily derived from psychology. Video game developer and psychologist John Hopson describes how Skinner-box principles are used to increase video game use, comparing players to lab animals: “This is not to say that players are the same as rats, but that there are general rules of learning which apply equally to both.” In his paper “Behavioral Game Design,” Hopson explains how psychology is used to keep players staring at screens, answering questions such as: “How do we make players maintain a high, consistent rate of activity?” and “How to make players play forever.”

Persuasive design works by creating digital environments that users believe fulfill their basic human drives — to be social or obtain goals — better than real-world alternatives. Specific techniques used by psychologists and other UX designers to hook users include the use of variable rewards, as video games and social networks are designed to act like slot machines. “Likes,” friend requests, game rewards, and loot boxes are doled out at just the right time to increase what’s referred to in the industry as “time on device.”

Persuasive Design’s Power Over Children and Teens

Many adults, influenced by persuasive design, are challenged to look away from their phones. However, children and teenagers are far more vulnerable, as their brains are still developing and executive functions—including impulse control—are not well developed. As Ramsay Brown, neuroscientist and co-founder of the artificial intelligence/machine learning company Boundless Mind, says in a recent Time article, “Your kid is not weak-willed because he can’t get off his phone… Your kid’s brain is being engineered to get him to stay on his phone.”

Techniques used by video game and social media companies often exploit children’s developmental vulnerabilities. For example, teens’ highly elevated desire for social acceptance and fear of social rejection is a well-known aspect of their psychological development. Rather than handling this limitation with caution, proponents of behavioral design see it as a gold mine. As psychologist B.J. Fogg, the father of persuasive design and creator of the Stanford University Behavioral Design Lab, says, “Today, with social technologies a reality, the methods for motivating people through social acceptance or social rejection have blossomed.”

Revealing another dark side of persuasive design, Bill Fulton, who trained in cognitive and quantitative psychology, says of video game makers, “If game designers are going to pull a person away from every other voluntary social activity or hobby or pastime, they’re going to have to engage that person at a very deep level in every possible way they can.” And that is a key reason why persuasive design is having such a negative impact on childhood, as digital products are built to be so seductive that they replace real-world activities—many of which kids need to grow up to be happy and successful.

Read the Full article from Psychology Today here

A true story about magic

“For those of you who are introverted/shy or have children who are. A delightful story…that might just have a strategy within it…

Oh…and if you love David Bowie make sure you have a read…”

You will find it here

School can be the best days of a parent’s life

Looking back at my children’s time at school, I wish I knew everything would work out all right so I didn’t waste time worrying.

I have three children, all very different academically, but they’ve each found their own path. There is so much opportunity post-school today, there really is a path for everyone.

As a parent, there is always something to worry about; when they don’t do well at school, if they’re not chosen for something, when their peers are unkind to them. The trials of adolescence.

Being a teacher has helped me see everything is a phase, and we will get through it. At the time problems seem enormous, but they pass. Sometimes it is just a case of riding out a difficulty and not catastrophising it. When my children had difficulties I used to tell them to get up, keep going, and one day the sun would shine again. And it always did.

Read the full article in the Sydney Morning Herald here

By Dr Julie Townsend.

‘Our house is on fire’: Greta Thunberg, 16, urges leaders to act on climate

Some of our students recently were involved in a Strike against Climate Change, this Global movement was started by 16 year old Greta Thunberg from Sweden. This article is from a speech given by Greta.

Our house is on fire. I am here to say, our house is on fire.

According to the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), we are less than 12 years away from not being able to undo our mistakes. In that time, unprecedented changes in all aspects of society need to have taken place, including a reduction of our CO2 emissions by at least 50%.

And please note that those numbers do not include the aspect of equity, which is absolutely necessary to make the Paris agreement work on a global scale. Nor does it include tipping points or feedback loops like the extremely powerful methane gas released from the thawing Arctic permafrost.

At places like Davos, people like to tell success stories. But their financial success has come with an unthinkable price tag. And on climate change, we have to acknowledge we have failed. All political movements in their present form have done so, and the media has failed to create broad public awareness.

But Homo sapiens have not yet failed.

Yes, we are failing, but there is still time to turn everything around. We can still fix this. We still have everything in our own hands. But unless we recognise the overall failures of our current systems, we most probably don’t stand a chance.

Read the full article or watch the video at The Guardian here

Greta Thunberg (left) takes part in a ‘school strike for climate’ at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. Photograph: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP/Getty Images

Waldorf 100 Part 2

The first Waldorf (Steiner) school was founded in Stuttgart in 1919. Today there are over 1,100 Waldorf schools and almost 2,000 Waldorf kindergartens in some 80 countries around the globe. Paul Zehrer produced and directed this new film and it’s fantastic. You’ll see and hear students and teachers from Waldorf schools around the world talking about today’s children, the challenges and rewards of education, and how we encounter each other, engage, and include each other in relationships and in community.

It’s very moving. You’ll love watching it.

Featuring students and teachers from;
The Community School for Creative Education, Oakland, CA and principal Monique Brinson and founder Dr. Ida Oberman
Bustan Yafa Kindergarten, The Orchard of Abraham’s Children, in Jaffa, Israel, an Arab/Muslim/Israeli/Jewish kindergarten – Ora & Ihab Balha, co-founders
Parzival-Zentrum School in Karlsruhe, Germany and founding teacher Bernd Ruf. In 2016 the school enrolled 160 refugees that came to Germany as unaccompanied children from China, Iraq, Syria, North African countries and the Balkans.
Florian Osswald from Dornach, Tamrat El Zeitoun Kindergarten in Israel, Jon Mc Alice, Sue Simpson, New Zealand, Christof Wiechert, Pedagogical Section, Goetheanum,  Orland Bishop, Founder, ShadeTree Multicultural Foundation,  Amir Shlomian, founder of Ein Bustan, Israel, Daniel Anderson, San Francisco Waldorf School, Bodo von Plato, Philosopher, Dr. Ibrahim Abouleish, founder & chairman SEKEM, Helmy Abouleish, CEO SEKEM, Kyotanabe Steiner School, Japan, teachers and parents, Waldorf teacher Trainees, Henning Kullak-Ublick, Executive Board, German Waldorf Association and hundreds and hundreds of children from Waldorf schools all over the world. You can find it by following this link

The Dangers of Distracted Parenting

Smartphones have by now been implicated in so many crummy outcomes—car fatalities, sleep disturbances, empathy loss, relationship problems, failure to notice a clown on a unicycle—that it almost seems easier to list the things they don’t mess up than the things they do. Our society may be reaching peak criticism of digital devices.

Even so, emerging research suggests that a key problem remains underappreciated. It involves kids’ development, but it’s probably not what you think. More than screen-obsessed young children, we should be concerned about tuned-out parents.

Read the full article here

Celebrating Advent

Advent starts this year on Sunday 2nd December and is celebrated for the four Sundays leading up to Christmas until Sunday 23rd December. Advent is frequently celebrated by people of every religious background, every faith, every spiritual path as part of the festivals of the cycle of the year.

In the Southern hemisphere, Christmas falls near the Summer Solstice when the light is at its strongest and we celebrate the triumph of light at its greatest point in the yearly cycle. As the year draws to an end we increasingly spend time outside enjoying “the sun in the heavens”. With the long warm days, intense light and balmy nights we are drawn out into the elements rather than into “the sun in our hearts”.

It can be challenging to develop a sense of inwardness, patience and contemplation when the Spirit of the Earth is on its outward breath. To balance this we can consciously choose to “receive the light” and celebrate what is both universally human and universally spiritual. Celebrating Advent can provide an opportunity for some quiet ‘breathing in’ during this outwardly busy time of year and help your children to practice preparation, reverence and patience through the ritual of counting the weeks and days to the special celebratory event. The lighting of candles each week also reflects our own ‘Divine Light’ and helps to bring us a little inward contemplation.

Traditionally Steiner schools and families celebrate Advent by looking each week at the natural kingdoms on Earth: minerals the first week, plants the second week, animals the third week and humans the fourth week (see verses below).

Here are some ideas that you might like to include in your own advent celebrations:

  

An Advent verse
‘The gift of the light we thankfully take, But not shall it be alone for our sake, The more we give light, the one to the other, It shines and it spreads, growing still further; Until every spark by friends set aflame, Until every heart, the joy to proclaim; In the depths of our souls, A shining sun glows.’

Advent Wreath  – on a special table made with greenery and seasonal flowers, four advent candles to light each consecutive Sunday of Advent.

Advent Garden – assembled and added to each Sunday of Advent with the four kingdoms celebrated each week try adding tiny crushed shells (collected from the beach) in a spiral pattern for the spiral on which Mary and Joseph figures walk.

Advent Crib – a nativity scene of the four kingdoms, adding a different one each of the Sundays- Crystal Kingdom, plant kingdom, animal and human kingdoms.

Advent calendars are available from Rudolf Steiner Bookstore by following this link

Verses for the 4 weeks of Advent

Week 1: Crystal Kingdom
The crystal kingdom comes first and is honoured by decorating the wreath or garden with crystals, seashells, stones or little bones you may find.

Week 2: Plant Kingdom
In the second week the plant kingdom is honoured by adding little dried flowers, seeds and pine cones and greenery.

                     

Week 3: Animal Kingdom
The animal kingdom, in the third week, is honoured by adding little wooden animals or beeswax creatures the children make.

Week 4: Humankind
The fourth week sees us honouring humankind by adding a little felted or beeswax child and figures.

      

Additional Reading:
Our library also has some handouts on making an advent wreath, nature table etc.
Possible stories include The Star Money from the Brothers Grimm, (and if you have the book “Rose Windows”, there is a lovely idea for a window transparency in there); craft ideas in The Children’s Year and Families, Festivals and Food. Other stories include the ones from “The Light In the Lantern: Stories for Advent” from Wynstones Press; Advent Sunday Stories, Collette Leenman; Mary’s Little Donkey, Gunhild Sehlin; Advent and Christmas Stories, Estelle Bryer and Janni Nicol.

How Waldorf School (Steiner School) Media Policy Fosters Children’s Healthy Development

By Richard Freed. Child Psychiatrist.

My clinical practice is increasingly a forum for children and teens who suffer because their lives are spent with digital machines, and little else. These kids are often in great emotional pain, fail school despite being capable students, or are caught up in destructive addictions to video games, social media, and phones. It’s heartbreaking to see these children and teens suffer from symptoms that could be prevented if our society better understood the effects of wired lives on kids’ health and well-being.

More recently, the world is recognizing the danger of raising children with lives focused around screens, as the often tragic consequences are now highlighted in the popular press. This contrasts with the prior decade in which our mainstream culture was caught up in the supposed promise of expanding kids’ use of digital devices. During this earlier period, outside of academic journals, there was virtually no discussion of the adverse effects of children’s overuse of screens. One clear exception: Waldorf Schools and their media and tech policies.

For decades, Waldorf Schools have been prescient in naming the risks of children growing up immersed in problematic screen and phone content. Moreover, Waldorf Schools have also highlighted a non-content issue that is often overlooked: how kids’ lives spent with screens displace vital childhood developmental experiences. Interestingly, while Waldorf School media/tech policy was considered conservative years ago, it is increasingly recognized as consistent with what science says are the lives kids need.

Nonetheless, powerful tech industry and marketing forces are more determined than ever to sell parents and schools on the benefits of putting kids before screens and phones. These messages are compelling and contribute to common myths about children’s screen and tech use. In this article, I will outline a number of these digital-age myths and illustrate how science proves their undoing. We will also see how Waldorf Schools and their media policies provide a powerful antidote to these myths and point the way towards the childhoods young people need.

Download the full article here

Surgery Students “Losing Dexterity to Stitch Patients”

A professor of surgery says students have spent so much time in front of screens and so little time using their hands that they have lost the dexterity for stitching or sewing up patients.

Roger Kneebone, professor of surgical education at Imperial College, London, says young people have so little experience of craft skills that they struggle with anything practical.

“It is important and an increasingly urgent issue,” says Prof Kneebone, who warns medical students might have high academic grades but cannot cut or sew.

“It is a concern of mine and my scientific colleagues that whereas in the past you could make the assumption that students would leave school able to do certain practical things – cutting things out, making things – that is no longer the case,” says Prof Kneebone………

“Creativity is not just for artists. Subjects like design and technology, music, art and drama are vitally important for children to develop imagination and resourcefulness, resilience, problem-solving, team-working and technical skills,” says Mr Hunt.

“These are the skills which will enable young people to navigate the changing workplace of the future and stay ahead of the robots, not exam grades.”

Read the full article here

Why Waldorf (Steiner) Students Knit

Knitting has been gathering a lot of attention lately by crafters and scientists alike. It turns out knitting and handwork provides a host of brain and wellbeing benefits to people of all ages. For students, in particular, knitting provides an essential learning medium.

A child who is knitting a hat or a toy kitten sees their will transformed into art. They see their focused, detailed work turn into something beautiful and purpose filled. They experience how the conceptual becomes concrete.

This is why Waldorf education founder, Rudolf Steiner, lectured on the importance of handwork for students just under 100 years ago.

Read the full article here

How is ‘Fortnite’ Different to Yoyos and Swap Cards

There has been a lot of talk around about the computer game ‘Fortnite’. I was having a discussion with some parents about this recently and we were talking about how the children who play this game seem to be obsessed by it and talk non-stop about it. One parent commented, “Well I guess it’s just the latest fad, it’s like yoyos and swap cards when we were young. We were obsessed with them, but then the fad passed.”

The more I think about this comment, the more I am convinced that ‘Fortnite’ is NOT just another fad and is NOT like yoyos and swap cards. Here are the reasons why:

– The aim of Fortnite is to kill everyone else and be the ‘last man standing’ – players can work together in teams … but in the end the winner will need to ‘kill off’ their team mates too. This is hardly the moral stand-point we want for our children!
– To kill everyone else in the game, you need to use weapons – there is a lot of research which indicates that repeated computer simulated weapon play desensitises the player (the reason why the US military uses computer games to train it’s soldiers).
– There is an overwhelming body of research which proves that playing games like ‘Fortnite’ is addictive (the dopamine hits the brain gets while playing are seen to be the source of addiction).
– Fortnite players are hidden behind an avatar. As the game includes a facility to chat to each other, it means children could be spending hours communicating with complete strangers who may not be who they claim to be. They often don’t have the tools yet to deal with unsupervised and potentially inappropriate conversations with strangers.

There are so many healthy play and socialisation options for children. As adults, it is our responsibility to know and understand what the latest ‘fad’ is, and to make informed choices to ensure that our children are not being damaged by their play. Computer games are not just another fad (like yoyos and swap cards) – they have the ability to hamper the healthy development of the child and may even cause damage.

Nerrida

To access the eSafety Guidelines page of our website please follow this link

Halloween

At school, we don’t celebrate Halloween and at home, there can be tremendous pressure to join in trick and treating, even if it doesn’t wholly match your family values, we warmly encourage you to withstand this pressure and instead find inspiration below to celebrate with reverence.
In ancient times Halloween was believed to be the time when the veil was thin between the world of the living and the world of the dead. Our ancestors could return to visit us, to give help and advice. People set lights in the hollowed out turnips to guide the spirits of the dead, and put out food as an offering. You no doubt have noticed that in modern times a materialistic aspect has crept in and celebrating and honouring our ancestors has been lost.
We’d like to offer some other ways to acknowledge this festival day and to have a wholesome and in context opportunity to discuss death and family ancestors.
  • Create a family altar: symbols of the season, pictures of beloved dead relatives and special things that may have belonged to them. In Mexico during the Day of the Dead, altars are made for particular family members and include their favourite food and objects of theirs, alongside cut out paper stars, clay figures and bread shaped like people.
  • Tell a story, one that you could repeat every Halloween, for example, Vasilisa a Russian Fairy Tale that includes that old witch Baba Yaga or the Little Hobgoblin which you will find by following this link.
  • Have an Ancestor Feast – prepare a meal that is traditional in your family from your heritage. Before you eat you can take a little from each dish and put on a plate in front of the picture of your relatives.
  • After the feast, or around the altar, you could light a candle,  sit back and tell a story about your ancestors. This could be a personal story about someone in your family or a traditional folktale or myth. You could pass around photos and recall memories. Who were your ancestors? Where did they come from? Did you ever meet your grandparents or great-grandparents? Talking about where we come from instils a sense of belonging and security in the children and also gives a healthy context to acknowledging death.
  • Baking and craft opportunities include carving turnips and pumpkins, making apple chains to represent the Isle of Apples (Celtic tradition) or have a go at making sugar skulls.
Halloween provides a wonderful opportunity to connect in meaningful and reverent ways both as a family and to our heritage.
For more information about Halloween and it’s true significance please read the article further along in this Bulletin.

‘Fortnite’ teaches the wrong lessons

In recognition of the fact that “Fortnite” has quickly become one of the most popular video games in the world – one played by more than 125 million players – I decided to play the game myself in an attempt to understand its widespread appeal.

As a parent and as a political theorist who focuses on education and its impact on democratic society, I couldn’t help but notice how much the game seems to teach children the wrong lessons about how to function as an adult and interact with others. I came away from my “Fortnite” experience thinking that the game is raising young people to be self-centered, not good citizens.

Read the full article here

Reflecting on Halloween

Regardless of whether you celebrate Halloween or not, or the views you may have about it, let us take a journey together to investigate the history of Halloween and some of Rudolf Steiner’s insights that may be of value.
What is Halloween and do we want to celebrate this with our children?
I am often asked my thoughts about celebrating Halloween and have recently been asked again. In discussions with our class teacher, I agreed that I would share my thoughts by writing an article. My hope is that it will inspire some deeper reflections, insights and questions to arise, that you can make healthy choices for you and your family regarding this celebration.

You can read the article here.

What is Melon?

Have you heard of an app called Melon? If you haven’t, you may be about to. We decided to take a look as to what it is all about after hearing about it many times lately in the High Schools we present in.

Melon connects users with new people based on social media friends and offers private messaging, video chat, and a people search feature.

It’s gaining popularity in Australia, whilst being featured in articles across the world that are calling it out for the frequency of cyberbullying, and the high concentration of men looking for girls that will do whatever they ask on camera.

Read the full article here