I’ve been working to improve the safe, healthy, and productive use of mobile screen for young children these last two years.
But I’ve recently recognized that even though the research on the negative effects’ of children’s screen time is still being debated, we are moving full speed ahead with technologies like VR, 5G, and AI-powered applications.
Here is what gravely concerns me about these, and why I think it’s essential that national governments globally, led by the EU or the US, assign a expert led task forces to pressure relevant law making bodies.
While engaging with a mobile app, AI infers a child’s interests and demographics by analyzing the child’s actions and choices, and then it presents the child with highly personalized content and targeted advertising. This AI activity is dangerous for a child because a child does not understand that their experiences are not purely coincidental. Therefore, there is a strong possibility that a child will come to prefer to “live” in this personalized digital world rather than in the actual world.
VR headsets are going to amplify the negative effects of this AI-powered personalized world. If mobile screen time is considered dangerous partly because a parent cannot co-view content as easily as they can on a TV, what about VR headsets where the viewing is limited to the user? What is more worrisome is that over time the child may not be able to easily distinguish the content experienced in VR — recorded and streaming video, video games, and video chat — from real life. Therefore, a virtual realistic life that is also personalized will surely be a life that is preferred to real life. To boot, with this technology, developers and content creators will possibly influence a child’s thinking in scary ways, directing not only the child’s future consumer behaviors but even shaping the child’s philosophical, political, and religious thought.
Then there is what some call the electricity of the new era, 5G, which ties all of the other technologies together. 5G will enable any internet connected device blazing fast speeds with low latency. Verizon claims that “5G will deliver speeds roughly 20 times faster than what is possible with 4G … latency could drop into the single milliseconds, making lag times nearly impossible to detect.” So that means that AI-processed data can travel from device to device or device to server and back with nearly zero latency, and images streaming from the other side of the world, even from the outdoors, can appear through VR headsets as if the child is actually present.
Have you thought much about this? How to start a conversation on these new technologies as parents already feel overburdened today with managing screen time? What can we expect from a regulatory perspective - this is about more than privacy.
I share more details on this whole idea my op-ed published by Venturebeat “U.S. needs a task force to examine risks AR, VR, and 5G pose to kids”