32 Comments
May 23Liked by Ravi Iyer

To be honest, I would like to have something like that on my device for ME (adult) as well. So I don’t get bothered by trolls and don’t see content I didn’t ask for pushed in my face regularly :)

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There are details to be figured out as to how it gets implemented, but I'd love any solution to enable anyone (e.g. elderly, disabled, or just anyone who wants it) to opt-in to "heightened protections". That is how the Minnesota bill was written.

Ideally if these were used widely enough, you might change the incentives in the ecosystem so publishers don't get rewarded for posting more sexual, graphic, shocking stuff.

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That’s the issue with capitalism and our society; I’ve been a UX expert for a couple decades working in Silicon Valley and I can tell you; unfortunately most companies do not care for usability, accessibility and safety unless it will positively impact their profits. This mentality is coming from a mentally unstable mentality (trying to put it nicely ha ha) maybe that’s why I decided to move into mental health instead :)

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Thank you, Ravi. Device (operating system)-level verification is the least-restrictive means. Apple and Google hold the keys to child protection, they know millions of kids have their devices, and they have failed in their responsibilities. It's tough at the state level due to interstate commerce constraints, but in partnership with NCOSE, we co-authored SB104 in Utah, the country's first device-level bill: https://le.utah.gov/~2024/bills/static/SB0104.html.

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Great to hear about your bill Chris and I'd be glad to compare notes. I don't know what legal issues you anticipate, but one idea that may help is to separate device based identification from content level restrictions. I'm hopeful that IF we get device based identification of minors (and those wanting more protections), we will see a lot of voluntary content level restrictions put on across companies. This may not protect kids actively seeking it out, but in many studies, there are a lot of kids who encounter harmful content by accident. And once you have that base at the device level, you can build up to greater protections across jurisdictions. Happy to discuss how to harmonize efforts across states sometime.

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I would enjoy that "harmonizing" discussion! I'll message you directly.

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May 23Liked by Ravi Iyer

The social media algorithms are a flood - as noted, moderating a flood as it happens is not an effective response.

For kids, age gating devices is a genuine flood control system and should be adopted. These can undoubtedly be circumvented and they also don't change the nature of the flood, just the capability of those swimming in it.

We also need a social media well being tax shift. Simply and powerfully, just tax platforms according to the self reported well being of their users, with the taxes then credited to the best performers and fundamentally changing the incentives that drive the design of the platforms.

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Love the tax idea. There are some innovative proposals in California right now that might be worth following if you're interested in that. see https://www.ojaivalleynews.com/opinion/editorials/kickin-a-little-dirt-for-california-s-communities-sb-1327-save-local-news-part-3/article_a7878fb4-1b94-11ef-afe6-5f0f63d7103f.html

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So... this exicst and works well. It's called the Gryphon router. I bought one at Christmas. I control all users and devices from my phone through the router. There is a guest setting that also immedietly dumbs guest devices connected to our wifi.

Obviously this has loopholes. People just don't have to connect. But my kids are age 9 and 11. They have Troomi phones. The phones do allow them more freedom because their banking apps are on there and we live in a little colonial walking village where kids are super free range. They need their phones so they can go far and I can call them in for stuff. Watches are a crap shoot because many kids like mine won't wear them.

Gryphon router (recommended by Better Screentime... Great org!) has been a godsend. Broadening this to a larger scope is absolutely the thing to do. But for younger kids and teens, for now, I recommend using the router based controls WHILE TRAINING the kids to understand why it's necessary. I got that great curriculum posted here recently... "Kids Brains and Screens". I'm training my kids and their friends and I promote the gryphon router to every parent I can prostletize to. I have a package of must haves I shout at everyone 😆 ...

"the Anxious Generation" + Gryphon router + "Kids Brains and Screens" (or Better Screentime curriculum) + Troomi phone (or equivalent)

I am finding parents AND KIDS to be very receptive to this "package". The second I say to a child "there are some things you can't unsee" they immedietly recall something scary and get curious about what they can do to prevent nightmares. That's when I dive in. We have a great little friend group so far. For both my 9yo and 11yo daughters. I'm pretty sure it will continue. I have 3 girls. The oldest is GenZ and fell HARD! Still falling at 21. Her childhood stolen. I vowed not to let it happen again at any cost.

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Yes, the layers are important! It's "the way" :)

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And yes... I put my engineer husband on "kindergarten mode sometimes just to hear him curse 😆 ...actually really funny

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This is a decent proposal, but it goes so hard against the grain of Millian liberalism that I don't see it happening anytime soon. Our society divinizes maximal individual autonomy. What that means in practice is that any other definition of "the common good" (such as, children shouldn't see porn or smartphones should be regulated because they're addictive) runs up against a wall of "well, it's their choice after all".

We thought liberalism was about neutrality and tolerance, but a value-neutral society is impossible. Every society defines the sacred and the profane in some way in some way. Like it or not, until we demote maximal personal autonomy from our altar, we will have problems implementing anything like what Ravi is talking about here.

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It depends a bit on how it is implemented, but there are implementations that can be framed as aligning better with consumer choice - as many people, including 70%+ of kids in one recent survey, feel manipulated by these products.

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Liberalism doesn't care if 95% of all people want something regulated -- the 5% that don't must not be constrained, because any unchosen constraint (beyond harm to others) is illegitimate to Mill. If you doubt that this is our one commandment, can come up with any significant product or service whose availability has been reduced by regulation in the last 40 years on the basis that using the product is wrong? (Not on the basis of harm to others, but on harm to the users themselves.) I can only come up with one: cigarettes. And even that justification morphed within my lifetime from "this is bad for the smokers" to "secondhand smoke kills". The former is illiberal; the latter is justified in terms of Mill's liberalism.

I worry greatly about what will replace maximal individual autonomy, but something will. Societies have to have some glue holding them together, and "do as thou wilt" is a too weak a glue. Religion and ethnicity are societal superglue (think Saudi Arabia or Sweden respectively). Nationalism is TiteBond (think Russia). Liberalism is watered-down Elmers. (Yeah, I know, the metaphor got away from me, but roll with it, man.) :-)

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It’s bizarre to try to pass laws regulating these websites when the schools are giving children access to the internet and porn in the classrooms is common. There needs to be a law banning all devices from schools that are capable of doing anything more than call or text parents and be a calculator. Maybe an e-reader that can read books and has a word processor. Giving kids access to the internet should be considered neglect/abuse. And parents are that dumb, the apple system parental controls are easy to use. They just don’t care. No one cares.

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I don’t think schools are intentionally allowing access to porn. Saying this discredits your broader idea which is interesting. Public schools in my area do limit access at the email browser and app level by running everything through Google Chrome. A total lock down seems impractical. As I stated earlier, the broader issue is acknowledgement of the problem and real education. Like any addiction, you have to acknowledge it to know how it controls you. And education might be real examples of addictive vs. non-addictive design. My public schools largely just checks a box on the education front by having a policy about use and offers “3rd party” education speakers for parents.

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I didn’t say it was intention. I said they were giving children access to the internet and porn, which is true. It doesn’t have to be their invention, they are just don’t care. I guarantee you that the kids are still viewing porn on their school issue devices, even in class. Why does a total lockdown seem impractical? I grew up using paper and we learned just fine, better than the kids today. You could even have a device with a word processor and books downloaded to it but no internet access for the ease of use of not having to carry big books. But it is not impractical to cut off all internet access to any device a child has access to. And education or raising awareness doesn’t work. The DARE program made kids more likely to do drugs. We don’t give kids access to cocaine and educate them not to snort it. There aren’t simple fixes to these big problems.

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Your phrasing of “internet and porn” together is bombastic. The two do not equal each other. Yes, you can access porn via the internet, but access to the internet does not equal access to porn. And by schools, I’m referring to elementary and middle schools (K-8). High schools and college are different beasts.

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How is it bombastic? The internet and porn do go together. I forget which percentage of internet traffic is porn, but it’s a lot! The only way to allow access to the internet and not allow porn is to have it super restricted and those kids would still find a way around it. Why point are you trying to make about k-8 schools? If you give 8th grades a device with a camera and an email app they will create porn of themselves and share it with each other. You’re completely out of touch with reality if you think otherwise.

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I am deeply skeptical of a framework that only the entrenched tech giants can adhere to. Just because they control so much of our digital lives doesn't mean we should go all in and dig the hole deeper. Open source OSes will face numerous hurdles to any device-based age verification standards.

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I don't understand why everyone is making tis so difficult. Kids don't buy their own iPhones or Android phones; it's the parents who purchase these. The parents have the primary responsibility for regulating the types of apps that go on the phones. All Apple and Google have to do is lock down the app stores for kids. This way the parents log on and download the appropriate app; this is where approval lies!! Furthermore, app makers should have parental controls built in that can control user time. Any parent who lets their kid use apps for more than an hour a day is not doing a good job parenting.

There is a software solution for all of this mess and that's where parental pressure comes in. They pay the bill for the cell phone.

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May 25Liked by Ravi Iyer

First, we as parents have little ability to pressure phone, software, or tech/media companies with our purchases especially this late in the game. Second, the network effect makes it hard for kids and parents to control phones. right now my 11 year old is the only girl on her friend group without a phone (and watch). How long should she be out of the loop with her friends? I’ve heard this from many other parents. The first one or two to fall, then everybody caves. Third, the current software solutions are pretty bad. Have you tried any of them? The most offending are the poor attempts at screen time controls from the phone makers (Apple, Google, etc) which borders on criminal IMO. Sadly, it is very hard for the public to hold these companies accountable and legislatures at the state and federal level have not prioritized it.

One more experiment I encourage you to try. Ask your local, public school what they do to teach kids safe phone use, explain the addictive nature of platforms, and. cyber security basics? I’m trying to push that snowball up the hill in my area.

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Yes and no. I can say with certainty, having been through this 10 years apart, and having a kid in many mental institutions for phone based stuff, the phone isn't the real issue. Apps aren't the real issue. It's the peer groups.

We had the best psychiatrists, wilderness therapy, SpEd school, residential treatment etc etc. They ALL made the point clear that a positive peer culture is paramount. Everyone has to buy in from 2nd-9th grade. While they are developing. If you shut it down completely they WILL find a way.

All of the firsts, 2nds, and 3rds for my oldest happened before she had a phone. Porn, Snapchat, nudes on IG, etc. She was on all the platforms on other kids phones in the bathroom at school. Then she manipulated us into believing her phone was safe because we were regulating it but she had accounts everywhere accessed through other kids phones and computers.

They are NOT dumb. The only way is to have them buy in to the realities of "the river" (the toxic river I call social media) and u derstand how and why to avoid it. Treat it like drugs. Get kids to "other" those people who are all in. Sad but necessary. Create a positive peer group. Boundaries! Can't be afraid to tell another parent what's what. The kids themselves have to lead it. But that also means their time and passions have to be redirected elsewhere.

I'm not sporty and I let my oldest do nothing. With my younger two they are super dialed into sports. I'm a coach! 😂 my friends laugh and laugh at that. But the kids are all in! It's going very well. At age 11 my middle daughter seems like a kinder Gartner compared to how advanced my oldest was at 11. It breaks my heart. I failed my oldest but not doing it again.

But trust me, we can't "de-app" our way out.

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May 23·edited May 23

How about the other way, the default being that a device cannot access adult content unless it has some sort of added verification (a parent can of course turn it on for a child if they want)?

I suppose what you suggest is easier...? (Apologies if I didn't read carefully enough.)

But then sites need to look for a certain thing or else not serve up content?

Thank you for thinking about this and putting these ideas out there so they can be adopted!

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Historically, a "default on for everyone" approach hasn't passed the "least restrictive means" test for the First Amendment. Like it or not, pornography is protected by the First Amendment. Therefore, adult access must be as barrier-free as possible. Making these more restrictive decisions just for children, based on the known age provided during device activation, is a good path forward.

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This is a choice now though. There are plenty of phone services on the market that default to no internet. Parents can add capabilities for a fee.

What I am finding is it's the PARENTS who have a hard time giving up the holy iphone. They all have them and they all want their kids to have devices that work easily with their apple universe. I've always been an android user and that's one of the reasons my oldest child was able to get away with duping us. We couldn't restrict her iphone other than checking it every day. Apple should only be able to sell their version of a dumb phone (why haven't they built that yet?... great question. I bet I know the answer)

The phones I have now for my 9 and 11 year olds are samsung smart phones with very limited function on the Troomi platform. They are big so they actual don't want to lug them around if they don't have to. They can take pics which they like. Music which they need. And Duo Lingo... also important. Kidsafe internet is a thing if/when I choose. But their phones aren't "cool", they are "useful".

Everyone else in our peer group has apple watches for their girls. I don't judge necissarily but I don't agree.

My girls won't wear watches so that's a no-go right there. But more imortantly, for girls the watch has become a distraction and a tether at a time in life where you need to be untethered. My kids phones are not top of mind. But for kids with watches, the parents are always texting, reminding, nagging, wondering, tracking. Even during school. And if a kid misses a text the parent is like "why werent you wearing your watch? I paid $300 for that! I need to get in touch with you in demand" We get emails all the time from teachers asking parents not to text 3rd graders on their watches during the day. It's wild!

That was one thing I was weary of in The Anxious Generation. The smart watch is a saftyism device. And a toy. A dumb phone is a tool.

I think where all of this misses the mark is technology based solutions vs psychological and behavioral, values based solutions. We have to, as a society, stigmatize the internet and social media for children. I call bullshit on all the people who say trans and LGB youth need their phones for "community". That is a lie and a marketing ploy. Because they are not connecting they are performing and/or watching a performance. To the point where the suicide boogeyman has indeed become a marketing tool. How gross is that? (There is no evidence for higher rates of suicide for LGB or T... see the Cass review or Finnish study)

This is gonna sound harsh but kids need to hear parents stigmatizing. Snickering about "that kid who has all access" and talking about discluding kids who are on social media from the parties. There needs to be palpable fear and "othering". Honestly i'm not a mean person! and I cant believe im saying this at all, but we are in a crisis and i see how this plays out every day as a stay at home mom. Parents need to man up and take back their authority! America wasn't built on "kindness". We are raising children, not growing weeds. You cant just plant a seed, water it a little and let the sun and soil do the rest. This takes direction and work and tough decisions.

Anyway, here's what I propose...

Make it illegal to sell unrestricted "adult" phones to minors. Done.

There should be a parallel competitive market for restricted devices with age appropriate games and media etc. Parents can still choose restrictions within those device platforms but smartphones and unrestricted tablets should not be sold to minors.

Like booze, obviously teens will find a way but eventually many of those kids will be stigmatized. If a kid is caught with an adult phone in school the school would have cause to reprimand. In short, I think there should be two age levels of devices with separate but parallel digital universes/markets. Pre-16 and adult. You have a bike before you can drive. Phones should be the same.

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I am concerned this could be a gateway to implementing digital ID, and all the inherent totalitarian harms that can, and probably would come along with that. Thoughts?

I would much prefer this level of protection be the default for ALL people.

Also realize, kids will probably be smart enough to figure out tech work around. As will the tech companies wanting the $ from addicted teens hours of use. Any “teeth” for companies violating the MN law as written? And how difficult would it be to prove violations?

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I worry that this type of piecemeal reform does not address the root issues. But it might placate people enough that the push for change— for freeing people from the grip of our tech overlords— loses steam.

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What a loaded headline. And BS

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What a lame comment with no substance. You’ve done your part.

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Thx Peter. Where’s your “substance”? I’m a designer for apple and Facebook and google for 35 years (look me up, read my book)- let’s hear what you’re doing for “your part”

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That’s what we’ll do. Look up a poster to understand their POV. Why is the post BS? Put it here Felix. I don’t care whether you’re a mechanic or a FB engineer.

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