Former Facebook executive Chamath Palihapitiya made headlines this week when he lamented his feelings of guilt over his role in developing the social network. “I feel tremendous guilt,” he said. “In the back, deep, deep recesses of our mind, we kind of knew something bad could happen.”
He refers to the massive societal impact Facebook, and social media at large, has had in recent years.
“People need to hard break from some of these tools,” he cautioned.
”The short-term, dopamine-driven feedback loops that we have created are destroying how society works. No civil discourse. No cooperation. Misinformation. Mistruth. And it’s not an American problem. This is not about Russian ads. This is a global problem. So we are in a really bad state of affairs right now, in my opinion.”
Palihapitiya went on to say that he hardly uses social media himself and doesn’t allow his children to use it at all.
This comes just a few months after another former Facebook executive—founding President Sean Parker—publicly shared his feelings of regret for co-creating the ubiquitous platform. At an event he said, “I don’t know if I really understood the consequences … because [of] the unintended consequences of a network when it grows to a billion or 2 billion people and … it literally changes your relationship with society, with each other … It probably interferes with productivity in weird ways. God only knows what it’s doing to our children’s brains.”
Palihapitiya and Parker are not the first industry giants to sound the alarm bells. Tech’s biggest names—Steve Jobs and Bill Gates—have also admitted concern over their own children’s use of technology.
The late Apple CEO Steve Jobs famously revealed in a 2010 interview with the New York Times that his kids hadn’t used the iPad. “We limit how much technology our kids use at home,” Jobs explained.
Microsoft CEO Bill Gates told the Mirror that he also sets limits on his children’s use of technology. “We often set a time after which there is no screen time and in their case that helps them get to sleep at a reasonable hour.” He continued, “We don’t have cellphones at the table when we are having a meal; we didn’t give our kids cellphones until they were 14 and they complained other kids got them earlier.”
Other leaders in tech have revealed similar personal habits that seem to contradict their professional aspirations.
As parents, it begs the question, if even these guys see the dark side to our modern-day tools, should we think twice before handing our kids (at age 10 on average) a smart phone?
Recent studies about the well being of children seems to back up such concerns.
Psychology Professor Jean Twenge detailed her devastating findings in the Atlantic showing the sharp rise in suicide rates among teens correlate to their ownership of smartphones and use of social media. “Rates of teen depression and suicide have skyrocketed since 2011. It’s not an exaggeration to describe iGen (people born between 1995 and 2012) as being on the brink of the worst mental-health crisis in decades. Much of this deterioration can be traced to their phones,” she explained.
“There is compelling evidence that the devices we’ve placed in young people’s hands are having profound effects on their lives—and making them seriously unhappy.”
Perhaps in answer to these concerns (and more) Facebook released a statement on December 15 entitled “Is Spending Time on Social Media Bad for Us?” declaring the company’s concern for these issues and framing both sides of the story—that is the positive and potentially negative effects of social media.
Of course, most parents know that teens hardly even spend time of Facebook in 2017, but they’re spending an alarming amount of time on Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat and other platforms with potentially greater pressures and more complicated dynamics.
Look for more studies will be done. Until then, the question remains: Does your child need a smart phone?