Stanford students protest Apple over smartphone addiction

Stanford students protest Apple over smartphone addiction. By Kif Leswing.

The anxiety over phone addiction has finally reached the heart of Silicon Valley: Stanford University’s computer science department.

The department that birthed Google and 40,000 other companies has now given rise to a group of four seniors working to make phones less addictive. They call themselves “Stanford Students Against Addictive Devices,” and they spoke to Business Insider about their campaign. …

They recognise that many tech products are engineered from the ground-up to be “sticky” and are often tested specifically to maximise the amount of time that people use them. They also see how central smartphones are to their friends and peers in daily life.

“We see every day sort of in our generation the issue of device dependence and device addiction,” Ramos said. “And that feedback loop that really develops that reward pathway that gets people hooked on their phones and the applications that run on them.”

“Especially in social situations we find that like when you’re around the dinner table or when you’re just chilling with your friends,” Kannan said. “People are just always perpetually on their phones and they just won’t participate in the social situation.” …

Pamphlet at the protest

The group has several interesting ideas about how to combat device dependence but one of the most interesting suggestions they have made is “essential mode.” …

“Our idea with essential mode was to have Apple give their users the option to use their phone in simpler ways,” Eyuboglu said.

“The idea is that just like alongside aeroplane mode and low-power mode you have an essential mode,” he continued. “So with a flick of a switch on the phone you’d be able to shut down a lot of those distracting bumps on the phone and bring it down just to the essentials, like calls, texts, photos, and say, maps.”

The group also wants Apple to “take phone addiction seriously” and include an app with iPhones that tracks phone usage clearly, and provides additional control over notifications from apps and other services. …

“This isn’t just an Apple issue, but amongst Silicon Valley companies, Apple is the best position to address it,” Gupta told Business Insider.