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Expand chart
Data: eMarketer; Chart: Lazaro Gamio / Axios

Why it matters: Silicon Valley has bet its future on younger users, but has come under fire recently for building products that critics say aren't safe for children.

Dylan Collins, CEO of SuperAwesome, a technology platform used to power kid-safe digital engagement for hundreds of companies, argues that a bias among engineers towards building products for adults has led to some of these problems:

"Some companies' engineering rationale only works when applied to adult use cases. When released in the children's space, those same engineering decisions don't work."

For example, most adult-based services, like YouTube, use moderators to address bad content that isn’t caught by algorithms and automation, Collins says. That approach, which still leaves on bad content on the platform until a human catches it, doesn’t cut it when the target audience is kids.

  • This bias also comes into play when companies name their products for children. "The best way to build a product that is ignored by 7- to 12-year-olds is to use ‘kids’ in the name," Collins says.

Kids internet access began to increase when Apple launched the iPad in 2010. Their screen time has only increased since then.

  • Forty percent of children ages 0-8 have their own tablet device, up from less than 1% in 2011, according to Common Sense Media's national "Media Use by Kids" census.
  • Ten percent of children age eight or under own a "smart" toy that connects to the internet and nine percent have a voice-activated virtual assistant device available to them at home.

The bigger picture: Critics say tech warps the minds of users who aren't mature enough to use it well — and gathers their data. "The race to keep children’s attention trains them to replace their self-worth with likes, encourages comparison with others, and creates the constant illusion of missing out," says the Center for Humane Technology, a group launched this week by engineers and investors.

What's next: Critics of Big Tech are starting to use the public health concerns about its products to advance their advocacy in Washington and the Valley. Common Sense Media is hosting a conference Wednesday in D.C. to explore how tech companies manage children's tech addiction, featuring lawmakers that have been friendly to tech in the past.

Go deeper

Updated 3 mins ago - World

Pentagon: 8,500 troops on high alert for possible deployment to eastern Europe

Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has placed 8,500 U.S. troops on "heightened preparedness to deploy" to eastern Europe in case NATO activates its rapid-response force over tensions with Russia, the Pentagon announced Monday.

Why it matters: No decisions have been made to actually deploy U.S. forces, but the heightened alert level will allow the military to rapidly shore up NATO's eastern flank in the event that Russia invades Ukraine. The Pentagon warned that Russia has shown "no signs of de-escalating," and continues to amass troops on Ukraine's borders.

Updated 30 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Biden calls Fox News reporter a "stupid son of a b---h" on hot mic

President Biden blasted Fox News' Peter Doocy on Monday after the reporter asked if the nation's soaring inflation is a political liability, saying, "what a stupid son of a b----h."

The latest: The president called Doocy Monday evening, the reporter told Fox's Sean Hannity. "He cleared the air and I appreciated it. We had a nice call," Doocy said when asked whether the president apologized, adding: "I don't need anyone to apologize to me."

Updated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

  1. Health: Fauci: "Confident" Omicron cases will peak in February.
  2. Vaccines: The shifting definition of fully vaccinated.
  3. Politics: New York Supreme Court strikes down Gov. Hochul's mask mandate for public areas — Sarah Palin tests positive for COVID, delaying defamation trial — Virginia school boards sue Gov. Youngkin for lifting mask mandate.
  4. World: U.K. to lift travel testing requirement for fully vaccinated — Beijing Olympic Committee lowers testing threshold ahead of Games.
  5. Variant tracker