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Are Anti App Addiction Policies/Laws the next big discussion in tech?

sarthology profile image Sarthak Sharma ・2 min read

I have been following this news "PUBG BAN" for a while. Here are some news clipping to understand the whole story.

Finally Today

They did this because of strong criticism by parents and the government of India. I do understand that the banhammer is an extreme measure that doesn't provide a long-term solution, and instead we should teach people to control these urges and cravings better. But think about it; if getting rid of addictions was so easy, drug addiction and substance abuse laws wouldn't be such a big deal. It's illegal to use such substances because people can't fight their temptations. They alter people's brain chemistry in very real ways, and digital applications today are no different.

Companies hire professionals to make their platforms as addictive as possible to maximize profits. Such practices have been used for a long time now, not only by game developers but also by other platforms like Amazon and Facebook. These apps affect the human brain on a chemical level. And more and more people succumb to the addiction every day, without even being aware of it.

So in this discussion, let's explore these rising threats and our responsibilities as Makers.

Please be humble and respectful in your comments. Attack the argument, not the person. 😃

Discussion

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picocreator profile image
Eugene Cheah

I feel that it's more practical, to limit on the OS or device level. And educate on parental control measures. So that it can be applied collectively to all games.

After all PUBG here can easily be replaced by any form of entertainment (CS, DOTA, LOL, etc). Its just much more focused because it grew in popularity to dominate a segment of the gaming space.


Such limitations imposed by pubg. Is honestly just self-regulation. And in my opinion they are only self-regulating, so that they can avoid getting banned.

Meaning if there were no issue in the first place. They would gladly make it as addictive as possible, without regards to the user. (Which admits to both the problem, and that they are gonna to ignore it selfishly for commercial reasons)

What we should do alternatively is to encourage exit points. Something extra credits covered really well. (Which is greatly missing in PUBG)

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utkarsh profile image
Utkarsh Talwar

I agree with your points. But while exit points are always good to have, I don't mind self-regulation. I think it should be encouraged. Google's Digital Wellbeing is a thing now for the same reason. Apps like Youtube Vanced have settings that enable you to set a reminder after every x unit of time. For example, my app stops playback and reminds me I've been watching Youtube for 45 minutes so I should consider taking a break. I think it's a simple but effective way to reduce screen time, especially for adults who tend to have more self-control than children.

And props for linking to the Extra Credits video. They always cover important topics with such finesse.

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picocreator profile image
Eugene Cheah

Yup, to be clear not against self regulation on games =)

I simply feel that it cannot be solely depended on.

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georgecoldham profile image
George

I believe there are also xp restrictions after 3 hours of gameplay and laws about this already in place in China for under 18’s.

Have large tech companies not already started preparing for this and already build in tools such as screen time restrictions and parental controls?

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sarthology profile image
Sarthak Sharma Author

Yes, But not all of them. Also, this addiction is not only for kids but adults as well. 🤷🏻‍♂️

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georgecoldham profile image
George

Oh I completely agree. My point was that if there is any legislation regarding app addiction etc, it will have to be softly worded, there is not quantifiable measure for it. As such large tech companies will be able to dismiss doing the right thing with a wave towards their screen time reports and the like.

Games in many ways are an easy target as they are mostly, not productive, and incredibly time consuming. Banning/time limiting them is a quick fix to that issue but ignores the underlying problems. Put a time cap on social media? Hold on that is my social life/only way I have of contacting friends and family/business/professional profile.

I agree it will need discussed, but how can it be implemented in a way which doesn’t unfairly restrict access to the positives of the software?

Also sorry this went a bit off the rails, was something I have been writing a report on recently.

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sarthology profile image
Sarthak Sharma Author

I agree and know that Time Cap is not a long term solution and that's why we are having this discussion. 😊
So that we can find other effective ways or just stop implementing such practices in the first place.

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georgecoldham profile image
George

The question is, can you create a successful user centric product without it being addicting?

The only “non addicting” apps on my phone are those which provide a service (banking, setting, camera, etc). Everything else is only there because it has a value to me in one way or another. Most of which is entertainment/procrastination.

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sarthology profile image
Sarthak Sharma Author

Exactly, That's one should aim for. But as you said it hard as hell.

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frothandjava profile image
Scot McSweeney-Roberts

if there is any legislation regarding app addiction etc, it will have to be softly worded, there is not quantifiable measure for it.

Soft words and no quantifiable measures is a recipe for terrible laws. Law is a sledgehammer and will be used as such.

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ben profile image
Ben Halpern

Regardless of outcome, yes, this should be a discussion. Addiction is dangerous and digital addiction will only become more pervasive.

There will be a lot of bad takes on either side of the issue, but we need to have the conversation.

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sarthology profile image
Sarthak Sharma Author

Yeah, may be this can be a topic of DevDiscuss. 🤔

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ben profile image
Ben Halpern

Nice call

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edizle585 profile image
Elijah Logan

What philosophers do you enjoy? But yes, I agree, the government should teach people how to cope with their addictions and provide support instead of disdain and clamping down. The landscape of tech is so large it's hard to pass any effective regulation.

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sarthology profile image
Sarthak Sharma Author

But also this should be a responsibility of us also. To make platform in way that solves problem not create new.

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frothandjava profile image
Scot McSweeney-Roberts

drug addiction and substance abuse laws wouldn't be such a big deal.

Laws that have consistently done little other than making the world as a whole worse.

At least when it comes to adults, I don't think the government should get involved all that much. If you lose your job because you were playing too much World of Warcrack then that's your problem, not everyone else's.

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sarthology profile image
Sarthak Sharma Author

If number of addicts increases, it can effect economy also. Unproductivite citizens can become a problem for others too.

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heidyd profile image
HeidyD

Totally agree, we will not have with whom to work and at the same time, we will be focused on the addicted people in order to help them somehow. I know what means to live with a person who is addicted. My ex was drug-addicted and I think that it was the worst period of my life. I noticed his addiction only after 4 or 5 months. As soon that I find out about this I tried to help him but the only thing that I was able to do was to find the right rehab center for body and mind care would help him. As I know till today he is helping the specialists from there and serve as an example to the others.

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frothandjava profile image
Scot McSweeney-Roberts

Neither of which equal the damage caused to society by anti-drug laws, with the inevitable rise of violent crime and corruption that always arises. And I don't think removing personal responsibility for ones choices and actions is particularly good for society either.

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itsasine profile image
ItsASine (Kayla)

Unpopular option: I do not think that ethics needs to fall on the developers to maintain. I'll work in healthcare, government, finance, whatever. Innately, I dislike the idea of some industries or software being 'bad'.


We already try to prevent bugs with the mantra that if we build a better app, the world will just build a better user. And then the user messes everything up in new, exciting ways.

Reducing playtime per account would just make people multiaccount. Reducing EXP gains over time will just make people move on to another game after diminishing returns kicks in. Devices can introduce features to increase mindfulness, but nothing will stop a motivated person from getting another device if the first one starts stopping them.

Why should software try to take on that responsibility to block people from doing what they will do anyway?


Add legislation to help addiction not ban the things that cause addiction. Add features rather than try to cure additions through software. You can't, as the owner of a product, both want people to love and use your app while also try to make them not love it too much. If someone has addictive tendencies, they will have that in more aspects than just your app, so I don't believe it's on you to try solving or preventing that.

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mykezero profile image
Mykezero

Square Enix's Final Fantasy XI has a pretty good warning message for players on their start screen.

Final Fantasy XI Start Screen - Warning to players about playing responsibly

As developers, we can only go as far as warning players they may be playing too much, but it's ultimately up to the player to decide how much they want to play and no mechanical process will limit a person who is truly addicted to a game or app.