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