Psychology Magazine

A "Department of the Attention Economy"

By Deric Bownds @DericBownds
Popping up on my daily input stream (in this case the Google News aggregator - which knows more that I do about what I might like to see) is a CNN business perspective titled "Andrew Yang: As president, I will establish a Department of the Attention Economy." It is an idea that I wish some of the more likely democratic nominees would take up.
The article immediately caught my attention, because faced with the immense array of input text and video streams competing for my attention I feel, as I suspect many MindBlog readers do, like one of the dogs in Martin Seligman's classic learned helplessness experiments whose stress and immune systems eventually are compromised by uncertainty. For entertainment should I be subscribing to Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, Disney+, YouTube +, Apple TV+, CBS All Access, AcornTV, Britbox, Shudder, YouTbue, Facebook Watch, Tubi, etc.? For news, there are too many options to even begin to list them. Apart from my own qualms about using Google as a prosthesis (Blogger, Google Docs, Calendar, Mail, etc.), I look at how my 5 and 7 year old grandsons' lives are potentially compromised by the amount of free time they spend on digital inputs rather than playing outside with friends.
Clips rom Yang's article:
...technology is addictive and damaging the mental health of our children. Research shows that too much time spent on social media increases stress, anxiety, depression and feelings of isolation. Other studies have found that extended screen time can negatively affect sleep...As president, I will establish a Department of the Attention Economy that will work with tech companies and implement regulations that curb the negative effects of smartphones and social media.
A few of his suggestions:
We can start by curbing design features that maximize screen time, such as removing autoplay video and capping recommendations for videos, articles and posts for each user each day. Platforms can also use deep-learning algorithms to determine whether a user is a child, and then explore capping the user's screen hours per day.
Design features that encourage social validation should also be removed. Instagram is leading the way by testing hiding likes on the posts of some users. That's a step in the right direction and it should be implemented as soon as possible. In addition, the number of followers a person has on social media should be hidden too, as it represents a false equivalence with a person's social standing.
Another area that deserves attention is the content our kids consume. When I was growing up, television time meant morning cartoons and after-school specials. Rules and standards should be established to protect kids from graphic content and violent imagery. Subsequently, these regulations would also incentivize the production of high-quality content and positive programming.
It shouldn't stop there. Parents have a major role to play — and they want to — but they could use some help. Companies should be required to provide parents with guidance on kid-healthy content (similar to the rating system for TV or movies), and parents should easily be able to monitor content and screen time for children.

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