Persuasive design, also known as behavior design, is a series of techniques meant to nudge and change human behavior. Tech companies develop it with the help of psychologists and employ it without users' knowledge or consent. These practices often manipulate users into staying on a device or platform as long as possible, and children's developing brains mean they're especially vulnerable to it.
For tech companies, more product use equals more profits. But for kids, more screen time means more advertising, more unfair data collection, and less time for the play and relationships that really matter for healthy development. Psychologists who use their training to help companies target kids are in violation of their ethical tenet to "take care to do no harm." But the APA, the nation's leading association for mental health professionals, has yet to act on this misuse of psychological expertise.
That's why Dr. Richard Freed and Dr. Meghan Owenz, psychologists and members of CCFC's Children's Screen Time Action Network, are doing something about it. Richard and Meghan sent a letter to the APA urging them to condemn psychologists' role in manipulative tech and inform the public about the use of persuasive design. More than 220 mental health professionals have signed on – and now, the APA needs to hear from you.
This action is a project of the Mental Health Professionals Working Group at the Children's Screen Time Action Network. Launched by CCFC in 2017, the Action Network unites and empowers professionals who work with families and believe that reducing kids' screen time is both necessary and possible. Not a Network member? Learn more and join here.
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