(This interview is dedicated to my friend Randy Lee, a dedicated public health nurse, who passed away earlier this week.)
Justin Smith in his book published earlier this year, The Internet is Not What You Think It Is, argued the internet is addictive, its use of algorithms leaves our lives warped and impoverished and despite these problems there is little or no federal regulatory oversight. Concerning the internet’s effects on children, Dr. Linn argues in her recently published work, Who's Raising the Kids, that our digital landscape essentially invades children’s privacy in order to use their personal information to drive endless consumerism. Children’s screen use, that amounts to upwards of 7.5 hours on average per day - substantially longer for poor and minority children - is having profound negative effects on children of every age. Generally by threatening childhood development and more specifically Dr. Linn noted by, for example, driving childhood anxiety, conflictual relationships with parents and family stress, depression, diminished language development, eating disorders, erosion of creative play, materialistic values, obesity, precocious sexuality, sleep disturbances, underachievement in school and youth violence.
During this 35 minute interview Dr. Linn begins by explaining how Mattel's Aristotle (never commercially launched) and Epic's Fortnite are designed to drive revenue. She discusses how digital games erodes or undermines children's creative play, how the use of various marketing tools or approaches drive every digital experience leading to a purchase, for example, by creating "frictionless" online experiences. She discusses the influence corporations have in formal education programming via Sponsored Education Materials (SEMS), discusses what parents can do to monitor children's screen use, what federal policies have been proposed to protect children's privacy and regulate how digital game design and what action the American Psychological Association has taken.
Dr. Susan Linn is currently a Research Associate at Boston Children’s Hospital and Lecturer on Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. She has lectured on the importance of creative play, the impact of media and marketing on children and the use of puppetry as a therapeutic tool in venues
throughout North and South America, Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. From 2000 to 2015 Dr. Linn was the Founding Director of Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood. Dr. Linn and her puppets appeared in several episodes of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. She has written and appeared in a number of video programs designed to help children cope with issues ranging from mental illness to death and loss. This Secret Should Be Told, a syndicated TV program for children about sexual abuse won her a coveted Action for Children’s Television and earned Dr. Linn a New England Emmy Award. With Fred Rogers’ production company, Dr. Linn created the acclaimed educational video series Different and the Same: Helping Children Identify and Prevent Prejudice. Different and the Same has been used in classrooms in all 50 states and won numerous awards including the two top prizes from the International Communication Film and Video Competition and the Media Award from the Association of Multicultural Educators. Her book, Consuming Kids helped launch the movement to reclaim childhood from corporate marketers. Her work has been featured on Good Morning America, Today, Sixty Minutes, Dateline, The Colbert Report, and the acclaimed documentary The Corporation. Among other honors, Dr. Linn received an UNIMA-USA citation for excellence; a special award for puppet therapy from Puppeteers of America; A Champion of Freedom Award from the Electronic Privacy Information Center; The Creative Leadership Award from the Puppet Showplace Theater; and, a Presidential Citation from the American Psychological Association for her work on behalf of children.
Information on Who's Raising the Kids is at: https://thenewpress.com/books/whos-raising-kids.