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Technology Chiefs Worry About Their Children’s Smartphone Addictions

Digital Addiction
Technology Chiefs Worry About Their Children’s Smartphone Addictions
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Mike Herrick has a 13-year-old daughter who enjoys using her smartphone all the time.

His daughter often sends text messages to her friends, even if they are sitting a few meters apart. At times like those, he wonders about the effects that technology has on people, especially children.

Herrick is a product and engineering executive at Urban Airship, a mobile technology company in Portland, Oregon.

He told the Associated Press, “The power of this age we live in is that it has given everyone access to all this information and the ability to stay connected to people, but how do we manage it better?”

Other technology executives have similar questions. Many say they enjoy their work. But, they also are concerned about the addictive nature of mobile devices and social media.

The Pew Research Center released a study in August about what parents think about technology in the lives of their children. The study found that about 66 percent of U.S. parents worry that their teenage children spend too much time with computers or mobile devices. Seventy-two percent of parents said they thought their teenagers were sometimes distracted by their phones when talking with them.

But 86 percent of parents said they are very or somewhat sure they permit the right amount of phone or computer time for their children. The study said 36 percent of parents admit to spending too much time on phones themselves.

Apple is trying to assist with some of the problems it helped create when it first released the iPhone in 2007. The company is offering more ways for parents to observe and control how much time they and their kids spend on the devices.

New tools are available to keep children from using applications like Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram completely or just at certain times of the day. Google included similar controls in its latest version of the Android operating system, which most of the world’s smartphones use.

Kevin Systrom is one of the founders of the mobile phone application Instagram. He is already promising to limit his 10-month-old daughter’s use of devices and social media as she grows up.

But Systrom also hopes his daughter will accept technology as he did when he began using computers and the internet as a boy. He says his early interest in technology led him to create Instagram. The application now has more than 1 billion users worldwide.

Systrom said “Moderation is key. I think we are in a world where we have to develop opinions on what that moderation is and how to do it.”

Brian Peterson is the co-founder and vice president of engineering at Dialpad, a telephone technology company. He says he loves his job and technology. He gave both of his daughters iPads when they were 2-years-old.

At first, they were using applications that helped them to learn skills, like playing a piano. But a few years later, things changed. Peterson noticed the girls spent most of their time watching YouTube videos or doing other things that he and their mother wished they would not do.

Now, Peterson has decided not to get the girls smartphones until they are older.

He said, “I am just praying by the time that my kids really need a smartphone, they have really good parental controls.”

I’m Jonathan Evans.

Michael Liedtke reported this story for the Associated Press news agency. Jonathan Evans adapted it for Learning English. Mario Ritter was the editor.


Words in This Story

manage – v. to take care of and make decisions about someone's time, money, etc.

addictive – adj. causing a strong and harmful need to regularly have or do something

teenage(r) – adj. relating to people who are between 13 and 19 years old

distracted – adj. unable to think about or pay attention to something; unable to concentrate

moderation – n. the quality or state of being reasonable and avoiding behavior, speech, etc., that is extreme or that goes beyond what is normal or acceptable

key – adj. extremely important

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