Behavioral Economics

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  1. 1. Emerson College Overdependence on Smart Devices of Children under the Age of 12 Introducing QT as a Solution to Promote Healthy Media Consumption Patterns Eileen Louissaint, Mel Zianne Teo, Nele Rieve GM603 - Behavioral Economics Professor Nejem Raheem 04/02/2015
  2. 2. ii Table of Contents 1. Introduction 1 2. Background Section 2 3. Behavioral Economics 6 1. Current Situation 7 2. Intervention 9 1. Obstacles 9 2. Opportunities 10 4. Discussion of Proposed Intervention 10 5. Bibliography iii 6. Appendix v
  3. 3. 1 1. Introduction Todays youth are characterized as digital nativesthey are born into a world where the use of digital technologies such as computers, video games, digital music players, video cams, cell phones and so on, is part of their daily lives. Due to innovations such as touchscreens that allow easier interaction, these technologies are becoming increasingly accessible by younger children (Rideout, 2013). While there are many benefits to the use of these devices, the risks of excessive use at young ages tend to be neglected despite proven major impacts on the childs development and health. Research shows that parents often are uncertain about associated risks and tend to overestimate the positive effect that digital technologies might have. This uncertainty paired with the misconception about its role, due to rapid and unprecedented advances in technology, contribute to the excessive use of technology of todays youth. The purpose of our research is to discover insights behind parental motives linked to the overdependence on technology by children under the age of 12, in order to develop an intervention that promotes the improvement of child health, development, learning capabilities and social skills by informing parents of the risks attributed to overdependence on technology during key developmental ages. This paper is structured into three parts: a background section, a section about behavioral economics, and a section about the proposed intervention. The background section presents findings from both primary and secondary research on digital technology use among young children, the impact of excessive use at a young age, and the current digital technology consumption habits of parents and children. As part of the primary research, point-of-view interviews were conducted with parents and children. The behavioral economics section addresses possible explanations for the current behavior of both parents and children and
  4. 4. 2 examines obstacles and opportunities which we must be aware of when framing our intervention. Finally, the proposed intervention section will discuss our intervention derived from the key insights extracted from our interviews and secondary research. 2. Background While digital technology can be helpful to children, the malleability of the brain during early developmental stages are issues of concern that have sparked the growing research today on technology. Our secondary research reveals the impacts of the excessive use of digital technology at a young age, the effects of technology on relationships, the adequate amount of digital technology each day, and current solutions communicated by child specialists to form healthy consumption habits (Christianakis, 2002). Children in developed countries have received the epithet, digital natives by Marc Prensky (2001). Having grown up with digital technologies and all the other toys and tools of the digital age as the norm, brains think and process information differently than before. According to a national study Parenting in the age of digital technology (2013), 75 percent of children age 8 and under have had access to some type of smart mobile device at home in 2013, compared to 52 percent in 2011. This research further showed that 72 percent of age 8 and under and 38 percent of children under 2 have used these devices to play games, watch videos or use apps. The internet enhances the human ability to scan information at a more rapid and efficient pace, whereas, in the past the popularity of reading physical books allowed the brain to practice focusing and imagination. In the pre-digital world, children had to use their imagination and exercise sensory and motor skills to amuse themselves through traditional ways of play such as outdoor activities, board games, puzzles, and so on, the advances in technology have changed structures significantly (Rowan, 2013).
  5. 5. 3 As the use of technology increases, studies have correlated it to the rise of physical, psychological and behavior disorders including child obesity, diabetes, ADHD, autism spectrum disorders, coordination disorders, developmental delays, speech disorders, learning difficulties, sensory-processing disorders, anxiety, depression, and sleep disorders (Phillips, 2013). Physical therapists are now seeing patients as young as eight years old with symptoms of RSI (Repetitive Stress Injury), a trend that seems to be increasing over time, threatening the health of children that indulge in smart devices for long hours (Kim, 2010). In the earliest stages, children are learning to focus their vision, reach out, explore and develop memory, language, thinking, and reasoning (Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 2014). These early stages in child development contribute greatly to life-bearing skills which they will take with them into adolescence such as building stronger, friendships and peer relationships (Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 2014), independence from the parents and family, and a sense of self within the world. The use of technology displays use of the automatic and reflective systems of the brain. The automatic system is unconscious and commonly associated with instinct and rapid decisions, while the reflective system requires more concentration for thorough and analytical thought process. The hyperactive nature of fast-paced media disrupts the ability to concentrate and completely comprehend material (Carr, 2010). The inability to digest information in a systematic behavior, such as the reflective system, suggests a disconnect between the parallel processing of the two systems and the patience to train the automatic system to reference cognitive mapping in complex activities such as school work, social settings, and assuming independenceall of which children begin developing at early stages.
  6. 6. 4 Marjorie Hogan, MD, FAAP, co-author of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) Children, Adolescents and the Media policy suggests the approach to achieving a healthy media diet requires the involvement of parents, educators and pediatricians in media education in order to guide children and adolescents towards healthier media consumption habits (Hogan, 2013). Additionally, parents can remove media devices from bedrooms and implement curfews for media devices (American Academy of Pediatrics, 2013). Parents Perspective Parents today lacked the availability of advanced digital technology that children have easy access to today. Since childhood experiences often influence the way parents bring up their own child, this lack of technology in the parents upbringing could result in uncertainty in terms of appropriate use of digital technologies (Plowman, McPake, & Stephen, 2008). Marketing of many video and software products for young children intensifies this uncertainty as it makes the parents believe that these products are beneficial and necessary for their childs educational success (Rose, Viitrup, & Leveridge, 2013). Even though parents are concerned about possible effects that digital technologies could have on their child, they still consider those technologies as safe if the use is moderated and supervised to a certain extent (Livingstone & Helsper, 2008; Plowman et al., 2008). Furthermore, they tend to attribute more value to the educational and social advantages of digital technology use than to negative impacts (Livingstone et al., 2008; Moore, 2015). Parents seek to achieve a balance in their childs activities. They try to maximize mostly education- related advantages while minimizing disadvantages by moderating their childs digital technology use. Methods of parental mediation include rulemaking, restrictions, supervision and time limits (Plowman et al., 2008; Plowman, McPake, & Stephen, 2013; Livingstone et al., 2008;
  7. 7. 5 Moore, 2015). However, several factors, such as the proliferation of digital technologies in the home, the complexity of these technologies that oftentimes surpasses the digital knowledge of parents, and the tendency of young children to copy their parents behavior, hinder the implementation of these regulation efforts (Barreto & Adams, 2011; Livingstone et al., 2008; Anand & Krosnick, 2005). According to Euromonitor International (2013), adult users spend at least 15 hours online per week (Appendix B1). Gordon (2007) highlighted that although parents are a huge influence in determining the amount of time their children spent online, they are often heavy media users themselves: parents surreptitiously checking BlackBerrys during their childrens concerts, making them less able to supervise their children as closely as they would otherwise. Furthermore, for parents, their childs technology is a tool to diversify activities, a reward method and a way of occupying children to gain time to do chores (Moore, 2015; Wartella, Rideout, Lauricella, & Connell, 2013). However, a national study on Parenting in the Age of Digital Technology (Wartella et al., 2013) revealed that the majority of participating parents think that mobile devices did not make parenting easier mainly due to risks associated with technology use. Childrens Perspective While it is important to understand the parents perspective regarding this study, it is equally vital to incorporate the views of the children to ensure its comprehensiveness. Elgene is a 6