Let’s be honest here – how many times do you check your phone per day? More than 30 times, 40 if you’re really bored? How about 150 times? Yes, you read that right, according to Adam Alter, author of Irresistible: The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping Us Hooked, the average millennial checks their phone 150 times a day! As shocking as that might sound, tech-obsession is becoming a worldwide phenomenon and has got some researchers questioning why.
In his book Irresistible, Dr. Alter writes about technology addiction, suggesting that 40 percent of people have some kind of internet-based addiction. Whether that be to social media, pornography or even email. The reason?
Well, behind every internet-based application there is workforce whose job it is to make the application more and more essential and harder to turn off. And yes, we’re even talking about giving in to the urge to watching “one more episode” of your favourite Netflix original.
The “tech zombie epidemic”, as Alter calls it, is a direct result of how businesses design their applications or products. For example, those endless scrolls on Instagram are powered by a technique called “variable rewards”. Much like playing a slot machine, this technique keeps us searching for our “prize”, which could be a new follow, an updated status or a handful of new likes on a recent post.
Another example of this so-called “digital manipulation” is that of the “Hooked Model” developed by Nir Eyal. This four-step process is built on basic principles of behavioural psychology that can be used to build habit-forming apps. The steps include Trigger, Action, Variable Reward, and Investment; all of which work to create an app that users turn to as soon as they unlock their phone.
So, now that you know that there’s real science behind tech-obsession, what can you do to ensure that both you and your children maintain a healthy relationship with technology? Here’s what we think.
- Turn off autoplay. Autoplay is a feature that enables videos to keep playing one after another. Typically seen on Netflix and Facebook, this simple feature, which is usually on by default, is often the reason for hours of binge watching.
- Turn off notifications. In order to prevent yourself from checking your phone every time it beeps, we suggest turning off the notifications and setting an allotted time to check your phone.
- Download the Mute app. Although this might sound like a contradiction, Mute is an app designed to encourage you to spend less time on your phone and more time connected to the real world.
- Do a digital detox. Take a weekend trip away with the family and make sure that all phones and technology are either left behind or switched off.
Above all, our advice is to be mindful of your family’s use of technology and be ready to step in and put boundaries in place where necessary. We want to encourage parents to allow their children to engage with technology in order to equip themselves with the skills needed for their future. We do, however, believe that the technology should only be used in environments that encourage a healthy relationship with the digital world.