Google’s well-being tools ‘on the right track, but it’s a small step for mankind.’ Will they cut distraction and help shift social norms?

May 8, 2018 — The Boston Globe: “So why expect people to activate these new digital well-being tools to manager [sic] our own phone habits? Jay Winsten, an associate dean at the Harvard [T.H. Chan] School of Public Health, is…skeptical…[He] helped devise the nationwide designated driver campaign that helped reduce deaths caused by drunken driving…But traffic accident deaths have been rising in recent years. Winsten said much of the blame is not to alcohol, but to drivers distracted by their mobile devices. So he’s glad Google is urging users to cut down. ‘They’re on the right track,’ he said, ‘but it’s a small step for mankind.’ What’s needed, said Winsten, is a shift in cultural attitudes toward smartphone use, similar to how American attitudes toward drinking and driving changed. The movie and TV industries donate…free advertising to pound the drunken driving lesson home…[and] the liquor industry helps out in a bid to boost its public image. Winsten said that Google could easily afford $100 million a year for a similar campaign touting responsible smartphone use. ‘Without that kind of a massive cultural effort,’ he said, ‘it’s not going to change very much, certainly not very quickly.'”
Read The Boston Globe commentary by Hiawatha Bray