Is Facebook the new Philip Morris?

In his book, The Common Rule, author Justin Early, talks about how your phone and the Internet are tools that can have great benefit to people. But unlike a hammer, your phone is not neutral. Your phone entices you to spend ever more time on it. The companies behind your favorite apps then sell your time to advertisers. It’s in their best interest to create ever more addictive apps to keep you glued to your phone. By all accounts they’re doing a good job of that so far.

But what if it’s not your time? What if it’s your kids that are being targeted? After all once social media companies saturate the adult market, they will need to look elsewhere for new users. Why not target a market whose brains are not developed enough to resist products that are engineered for addiction.

I recently saw the advertisement below for Facebook messenger kids edition. I couldn’t help but think about Joe Camel, Spuds Mackenzie, Ronald McDonald and all the other characters that used to market unhealthy products to kids. I still don’t know why my mother agreed to buy me the Spuds Mackenzie high tops I wore in fourth grade. My kids couldn’t wear those to school now.

Britain’s Prince Harry was recently quoted as wanting to ban the hugely popular video game Fortnite because “It’s too addictive, especially for young people.” “It’s created to addict, an addiction to keep you in front of a computer for as long as possible, it’s so irresponsible.”

If we’ve already banned advertising cigarettes and alcohol to children, can banning social media under a set age be far behind? I predict we’ll see warning labels and mandatory time restrictions on certain apps imposed by governments around the world within the next decade. Before this happens you’ll want to reconsider owning certain technology company stocks.

 

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