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Apps like Pokémon Go create 'false needs': researcher

Julian Lawrence is an educator, researcher, and cartoonist who studies the relationship between children and technology. He warns that apps like Pokémon Go create "false needs" that foster addiction.
A child uses a smartphone to play a game. Researcher Julian Lawrence says we should be critical of the amount of time children spend in front of screens. (Priyanka Parashar/Mint via Getty Images)

Julian Lawrence is an educator, researcher, and cartoonist who studies the relationship between children and technology. He warns that apps like Pokémon Go create "false needs" that foster addiction. Listen to his interview with Checkup guest host Susan McReynolds:

Researcher on kids and technology. 3:28

Susan McReynolds: Tell me a bit about your relationship with technology.

Julian Lawrence: My relationship right now involves doing studies with grade 4 children, who are trying to mediate the real world and virtual world. What I'm finding in my research is that a lot of kids are using screen-based technologies. I think that we need to start looking at moving children away from screen-based gadgets.

I do have an addiction to drawing comic books and I'm finding that drawing by hand—pen to paper— is a great way of mediating the real world experiences and telling stories.

SM: There is something about that idea of a pen in hand and getting it to touch the paper and what it does to your thought processes while you're actively doing that. You're a great believer that that does something different to your connection to your material?

Drippy the newsboy in a comic by Julian Lawrence. (Courtesy of Julian Lawrence)
JL: It does, I think, in terms of developing cognition. By actually reaching out into the real world, and using real world tools and your hands to navigate your way through the world, that is going to help your brain develop a much more positive way. Becoming indoctrinated and addicted to screen-based devices basically causes people to start creating "false needs." Pokémon Go is a great example of that—the app is free, but it gets you addicted to it right at the start, then you have to start purchasing things in order to get better.

Herbert Marcuse is a great philosopher who wrote about this in the 1960's. It's called "one dimensional thinking" when we just start to accept everything that's being offered to us as fact without really looking 360 degrees around what's being presented to us.

Julian Lawrence's and Susan McReynolds' comments have been edited and condensed. This online segment was prepared by Ayesha Barmania.

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