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Feeding The Hand That Bites You

January 30, 2019

It wasn’t a typical technical presentation. For one thing it took place in a church. And the several hundred people packed into the gymnasium were mostly teenagers.

But, it was a tech conference just the same. It was almost an anti-tech conference. The speaker was Collin Kartchner. He has a huge following on Instagram. Honestly, even though he’s spoken all across the country, and he’s from my little town of Pleasant Grove, I’d never heard of him.

I sat with my 17-year old daughter. Before the speaker was announced, she leaned over to me,

I’ll probably fall asleep during this lecture.

She didn’t fall asleep. I’m a good enough presenter to recognize a superior one. Collin was brilliant. He knew his material cold and he knew his audience. He presentation matched his message. It was a mix of photos, quotes, memes and video clips.

His message was all about the state of social media. Despite his huge online following, he’s not a fan. . .especially for kids. Many of his points were familiar to parents who have paid attention to social media trends over the years.

  • Social media is designed to be addictive. It produces dopamine.
  • Social media use leads to greater anxiety and depression, especially in teenagers
  • Steve Jobs, the inventor of the iPad refused to allow his children to play with one
  • Many leaders in technology limit their children’s screen time

Collin is a true believer. Or a true dis-believer. It’s not just that he thinks social media is bad for kids, it’s that over the course of 70 minutes, he convinced kids it was bad for them.

Three of my teenagers were in the audience. The 17-year old daughter I was sitting next to had deleted Snapchat and limited her Instagram use. My other two sons, both 16 were anxious to get phones. One had limited access to a smartphone. We hadn’t planned on giving him access to one yet, but the football team announced their practices via an app.

The other son, had limited access to a flip phone. Turns out, he’s the cool kid. At least according to the presentation tonight.

That was another one of the Collin’s points. He encouraged the kids to “upgrade” their smart phones to flip phones.

He hit all the right spots. For example, keep your kids’ cell phones out of their rooms. Check their phones. Limit their access.

The strange thing was, that these were rules that my family has instituted since before the kids got phones. Both my lovely wife and I have worked in technology ffield for decades. But, to our kids we were just “old,” “Out of touch,” “too strict.”

However, when Collin said it on stage, it meant more to them.

He also said some interesting things about the tech industry. The industry, especially the social media giants, are riding a tiger. They have to increase viewership to maintain their income. And yet, they also are under pressure to not abuse their users.

And it’s having an effect. Facebook members have been declinging for years. Collin led a boycott of Snapchat. Twitter still hasn’t made a profit.

And yet, the socials are literally killing our kids. And those of us in the technology space helped create them. We created the weapons that are now destroying our children.

Like many technology pioneers, I actually shun most technology. I understand enough about technology that I don’t really trust it. What one man can create another one can break.

And technology can be use to manipulate us, trick us, and addict us. I’ve believed this for a long time.

It was great to hear someone else say it. Especially to my kids.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren.

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(c) 2018 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

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