July 19, 2024


Super Technology

The Information Weekend’s Special Kids and Tech Issue


Hi, welcome to your Weekend! 

As the father of two tween girls, I eagerly anticipated the results of The Information’s first-ever survey of tech parents. The report is fascinating, both for the questions it answers, and the new ones it raises.

How many hours of screen-time per day is “normal”? Is anyone out there actually letting kids use VR headsets? And when should I give in to the constant badgering, and let my daughters have their own smartphones (shudder)? It sure helps to cross-check your personal answers against 1,053 of your tech-industry peers. 

We now know that tech platforms can carry risks for young people—risks that may outweigh their benefits. So it’s crucial that parents study up and think hard about when, or whether, our kids need the technology that’s now readily available to them. If your kids are old enough, I’d encourage you to share the survey’s results with them. I’d love to hear their responses as well. Good luck, fellow parents!

To better understand Silicon Valley’s ever-changing attitudes toward tech and parenting, The Information surveyed 1,053 subscribers (with 1,846 kids) about how they handle tech decisions with their own children. Upshots: They’re opting for less screen time, but giving younger kids access to tablets and social media. It other words, it’s complicated! 

ThirdLove’s Heidi Zak, Nextdoor’s Nirav Tolia, Zynga’s Marc Pincus, and other tech leaders share their kids’ favorite streaming content, coding apps, and YouTube channels. Some of their answers are expected (Alexa, Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood) and other choices might be more unfamiliar (YouTuber Mark Rober, music app Lumi). 

A decade into the iPhone era, a wakeup call hit parents—maybe this smartphone thing wasn’t such a smart idea after all. So began the “Wait Until 8th” movement, which advocated for kids not to receive smartphones until 8th grade. Then, Covid-19 hit, and all bets were off. “I would’ve loved to have made it to eighth. We tried. We failed,” said one CEO-parent. Rachel Levin reports on what 2022 parents are considering now that smartphone purity pledges are off the table. 

Remember the rager? The unhinged, parents-are-away-for-the-weekend parties depicted in Superbad, Cant Hardly Wait and every other teen flick for the past 40 years? Well, they’ve gone the way of the dodo, as the parents have wrested away privacy—and unsanctioned fun—from teenagers. Between tracking apps like Life360, and ubiquitous home security cameras, it’s nearly impossible for the average teen to host a sneaky fête. But, as Zoe Bernard reports, teenagers are crafty creatures. In the wise words of Pitbull, “They can’t, they won’t, they never will stop the party.”  

Already coping with the drain of in-game purchases and the strain of strangers chatting with their kids online, parents of gamers will soon be faced with another pickle: Whether to let kids participate in play-to-earn crypto games. On the plus side, say proponents, it’s a way to earn a little extra money while doing something kids already love. On the minus side, are kids really cut out to be handling volatile investment assets, all while fending off scammers and shaking off the temptations of addiction? Margaux talks to parents and kids who, so far at least, are willing to give the games a shot.     

The Endorsement

Reporter Paris Martineau on I Agree to the Terms: 
I’ve always felt conflicted over the ethics of micro-task platforms like Amazon Mechanical Turk. Sure, it ostensibly gives workers the flexibility to earn a few extra bucks through virtual (human-powered) labor. But something about it has always felt icky. Maybe it’s the assumption, on the part of tech companies, that workers genuinely prefer the gig economy over comforts like earning a living wage or job security. That’s why I’m interested in watching a new interactive performance called I Agree to the Terms, which takes place live March 25 through April 3 over Zoom and in the “Builders Marketplace,” a platform designed to give audience members a taste of the Mechanical Turk experience. Created by Obie Award-winning New York theater ensemble The Builders Association and a group of actual MTurkers, the 45-minute show promises a whirlwind of HITs (Human Intelligence Tasks, in Amazon-speak), with experienced micro-taskers teaching groups of audience members how to compete against one another to nab microscopic amounts of virtual currency. Will any of this change my mind about Mechanical Turk? Debatable. Will it be a smashing HIT? Almost certainly. 

Watching: The Oscars, as filtered through TikTok. 
Will anyone watch the Oscars? The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences certainly hopes so, and has introduced a number of changes in an effort to boost sagging viewership. The Oscars are also attempting to use TikTok to boost the ceremony and bring in a younger audience, with @oscars now at 743K followers and growing. But young creators, as interviewed by Vanity Fair, note that there’s still a lot more the Academy could do to attract young people. We’ll be tuning in on Sunday (both on our TVs and phones) to see how the Academy’s latest attempt at relevancy works out. 

Reading: Why video games keep getting longer.
Got 135 hours? That’s how long it will take you to beat every task in 2020’s “Assassin’s Creed Valhalla”—a far cry from the 32 hours of total runtime in 2007’s “Assassin’s Creed.” For the Washington Post, Teddy Amenabar reports on the gaming industry’s quiet effort to make games longer. The main reasons: it’s easier to build atop existing games than to create a new world, so sequels tend to sprawl. And more time in game for players means more in-app purchases for studios. Of course, everyone has their limits. When developers announced that “Dying Light 2” would require over 500 hours, a hoard of angry zombies, er, gamers growled in discontent.

Noticing: The use of “vibe shift” in crypto economics.
Suddenly all the crypto bros are praying for a vibe shift. No, not the indie sleaze variety you’ve been hearing about. An analyst interviewed by Bloomberg believes that bitcoin’s value will need its own “vibe shift” to rally past $46,000 anytime soon. The coin, currently worth about $44,000, has fallen a long way from its November peak of $68,000. However, a drastic change in trader’s risk sentiment might help to change this. It’s bad news for crypto holders, but good news for hipster economists, who can now legitimately use “vibe shift” in their white papers.

Makes You Think

Hat-tip to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for the on-trend Dad joke.

Until next Weekend, thanks for reading!


Weekend Editor, The Information


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