EU Should Take Measures Against Phone Dependency - Euro MP
According to a report by the European Parliament, infinite content, automatic video playback, and personalized recommendations are all psychological tricks used by tech companies to keep Europeans glued to their screens. Regulation could be introduced in the future in the Digital Justice Law.
This was reported by Euractiv.
On average, one in four children and young people aged up to 24 spends more than seven hours a day online. More than two to three hours is already considered excessive.
This could be attributed to the fact that online games, social media, streaming services for movies, series or music, online markets or stores, as well as dating apps, are designed in a way to make users spend as much time on the platform as possible.
The initiator of the Digital Justice Law is Dutch Member of the European Parliament from the Greens, Kim van Sparrentak, who published a draft report last week detailing the risks to mental health associated with excessive screen time.
The draft report states that YouTube, Netflix, and Spotify offer features such as endless scrolling or automatic playback by default, which are described in the report as "psychological tricks to keep consumers online." Other captivating design features include "pull to refresh" and personalized recommendations.
These features affect "the psychological needs, vulnerabilities, and desires of consumers, such as social belonging, social anxiety, or fear of missing out." An example of the latter feature is temporarily available information, such as "stories" or information that another user is typing a message.
The Dutch lawmaker stressed that dependent users are twice as likely to experience mental health issues such as depression, low self-esteem, body image disorders, eating disorders, anxiety, high levels of perceived stress, neglect of family and friends, loss of control or sleeplessness.
Excessive screen time and too much social media can cause attention deficit disorders, impulsiveness, nervous system disorders, limited cognitive abilities, as well as difficulties with learning and memory.
Abuse of digital technologies can also lead to reduced levels of gray matter in certain areas of the brain, which also occurs, for example, in those addicted to alcohol or heroin. In addition, there is an increased risk of stress and burnout, information overload, and sensory stimuli.
There are also gender differences in addiction. Overall, boys spend more time on games and electronic devices. However, girls are more likely to suffer from mental health problems. Internet users are also twice as likely to have clinically significant levels of depression symptoms. Adolescents who spend little time on online communication are generally the happiest.
The programs and services themselves offer tools to combat addiction. These include various time restrictions that users can set themselves. According to the report, this is the problem, as they "shift the burden onto the individual instead of addressing the underlying issue of deliberate design of online services."
Young people can also easily bypass parental control tools and other technical limitations. Therefore, the MEP calls for European regulation to establish rules.
Today, the European Commission is indeed examining whether its Consumer Protection Law adequately protects Europeans. Therefore, it is possible that in the next mandate, we will also see the Digital Justice Law, which will also include regulation of app addictiveness.