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Senators Seek NIH Info on ‘Tech Addiction’

Want to know scientific basis, impact of tech on kids and adolescents

A pair of Democratic senators are asking the National Institutes of Health for info on “technology addiction” and its impact on child development, including social media apps “purposefully designed to maximize user engagement.”

That comes as D.C. is increasingly focused on whether it needs to step in to regulate, or at least monitor, the impact of edge providers over content and users.

That came in a letter to NIH from Sens. Brian Schaatz (D-Hawaii) and Michael Bennet (D-Colo.). Schatz is ranking member of the Senate Communications Subcommittee, and Bennet is on the Senate Health Committee.

They pointed to a report that almost all homes with young children (under 8) have a mobile device, up from 41 percent six years ago, and that almost half of young children own a mobile device, with kids spending an average of 48 minutes of screentime with their phones, up from 15 minutes in 2013.

They want information on the scientific basis for tech addiction and its impact on children and adolescents.

See: A High Bar For Smart Toys

“Former engineers, designers and executives of leading tech companies have spoken out recently on the dangers of the products they create,” they wrote.

They ask if there is scientific consensus on tech addiction, as well as info on the public health effects of social networking apps and whether there have been any analyses of the psychological effects of some mobile apps.

They also seek a briefing on the issue.

“Technological progress has benefited society, but we must not neglect its consequences as we continue to innovate,” they told NIH. “To address the open question of whether we are addicted to technological devices and platforms, Congress must understand the current scientific consensus, potential gaps in research, and the best way to build a body of evidence that can inform effective policymaking. Technology companies must also engage in this national dialogue and provide researchers the necessary data required for their studies.”