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The undercurrents of the future. A publication from Medium about technology and people.


In OneZero. More on Medium.

Whatever your view of tech’s impact on our children, here are commonsense rules we can all follow

By Nir Eyal and Jonathan Haidt

Photo: McKaela Taylor/Unsplash

Recent social science research has parents concerned about whether deep immersion in digital technologies is bad for their children.

A variety of studies find that rates of teen anxiety, depression, and self-harm have risen since 2012, in the U.S., the U.K., and Canada, although the evidence that this rise was caused by smartphones and social media is hotly debated.

It may take another decade for researchers to reach agreement, but parents need guidance now if their kids are to develop a healthy relationship with technology.

To limit or not to limit, that is the…

Hours after a baby is born, its internet presence begins — no matter what we try to do to stop it

Photo: Isabel Pavia/Getty Images

The day after my wife delivered our first baby, a photographer knocked on the door of our hospital room and offered to take pictures. We were sleep-deprived, dazed from the realization that everything we once considered “normal” had just been smashed with a sledgehammer, and emotionally speaking, we were puddles of liquid. Of course, we let her in.

Later on, when I looked over the terms of service on the photographer’s company-issued iPad, I noticed that one of the default checked boxes authorized it to use the photos in online marketing materials. Without hesitating, I unchecked it and told the…

Over at Future Human, our staff writer Emily Mullin writes that a crop of new biotech companies have sprung up to provide better alternatives to breastfeeding. While infant formula, which is based on animal milk, has been around for decades, it differs from human breast milk in many ways. Harnessing advances in biotech, researchers are finding ways to create milk that’s as close as possible to the real thing. Companies are finding ways to synthesize humanlike nutrients, “grow” breast milk in the lab, and even use it to deliver medication.

The advances are cool, but they don’t address the core…

It’s never been easier to make ‘Minecraft’ part of your homeschooling curriculum

Trapped at home? There’s no better time to explore the International Space Station.

When the news hit that I — like many parents — was suddenly starting a multi-week lockdown with my three daughters, I had a mix of emotions. Surprise, obviously. Mild panic, yes. But also, low-key excitement. After all, I’d finally get a chance to introduce them to all the topics I’d somehow never made time for, from home electronics to advanced JavaScript. And like it or not (mostly not), there would be no distractions like hiking, playdates, and road trips to interrupt the learning.

Roughly one-and-three-quarters days later, I realized my mistake. Yes, my kids were able to put their…

They’re doing better than we are

Photo: PeopleImages/Getty Images

As grown-ups everywhere scramble to shift their lives online, kids are logging on and going to school.

Millions of Americans have been asked to stay home to curb the accelerating spread of the coronavirus, and children are no exception. In an attempt to maintain some semblance of a curriculum, high schools, middle schools, elementary, and even preschools have started hosting classes on video conferencing platforms like Zoom.

Offscreen, teachers and parents are hard at work trying to ease the transition to remote learning. “It’s important for the kids to stay connected,” says Monica Shire, a preschool teacher at the University…

Spend a weekend — or a monthlong at-home break — giving your kids a taste of programming

Photo: Sally Anscombe/Getty Images

If you’re like millions of parents across the world, you’ve suddenly crashed into an unplanned at-home break with your kids. Many of the usual options for educational enrichment — museums, galleries, concerts — are shuttered. Helpful distractions like parks and playdates have been swallowed up by new rules of social distancing. And the odds are good that you’ll need to balance the chaos at home with the ongoing remote work requirements of your own job.

Here’s the good news: There is a way to keep your kids busy and help them learn something truly useful. …

But it's still magical

Photo: PeopleImages/Getty Images

We love our Amazon Echo. Among other tasks, my four year old finds the knock knock jokes hilarious, the weather captivating, the ability to summon songs comparable to magic, and Echo to be the best speller in the house.

My fear? It’s also turning our daughter into a raging asshole. Because Alexa tolerates poor manners.

You see, the prompt command to activate the Echo is, “Alexa…” It certainly is not, “Alexa, please.” Alexa is not required to offer a “thank you” before Echo is ready to perform another task, nor does Echo give my daughter that thoughtful acknowledgement, either.


Or why social media and mom guilt don’t mix

Photo: Tomohiro Ohsumi/Getty Images

I have a Garmin 235 that I rarely use. I occasionally wear it to gauge just how inactive I am when I don’t force myself to go on a walk or go to the gym. Imagine my relief when, after months of sitting, dead, inside our junk drawer, my three-year-old found it and thought it was the best thing ever. Awesome! Not only was I free to ponder the lack of steps I complete in blissful ignorance, but my three-year-old now had a new toy to occupy most of his attention. Win-win.

The real benefit of this watch is that…

There’s no perfect fix, but experts on moderation, sexual exploitation, and internet law tell OneZero there is hope

Illustrations: Ana Kova

Online games that are wildly popular with kids, like Fortnite, Minecraft, Clash of Clans and Roblox, have become hunting grounds for pedophiles. Recent reporting suggests that by at least the thousands — and perhaps far more than that — kids are being groomed, cajoled, tricked, intimidated, or blackmailed into sending sexual images of themselves or others to predators who trawl gaming platforms and chat apps such as Discord for victims.

While there is often an element of moral panic at play when a new trend or technology poorly understood by adults is identified as a threat to children, an investigation…


They do more harm than good, research shows

Credit: Annie Otzen/Getty Images

UNICEF, the United Nations agency devoted to delivering aid to kids around the world, now makes a fitness tracker for American children. Called the “Kid Power Band,” the smart bracelet petitions kids to get active with an unconventional incentive: If they complete enough steps in one day, UNICEF will deliver a food packet to a hungry child in need. “The more kids move with the Kid Power Band, the more lives they save!” the product page declares.

Apparently it needs to be said: Compelling children to exercise by holding the lives of other kids over their heads is magnificently problematic…


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