Hearth Matters
Hearth Matters Podcast
E04 | Householder Fems Riff on Tech and Kids

E04 | Householder Fems Riff on Tech and Kids

Kathryn and Erin discuss technology's role in family life. They explore the balance between the promise of AI and biotech and the challenges posed by social media on youth development, emphasizing the need for responsible tech management within homes to protect children and the pivotal role parents play in guiding their digital engagement.

SPEAKER 1: Kathryn

Whoever's home needs to be thinking about how do we protect these four walls so that this is really a sanctuary.

And that includes managing technology in a really responsible way, not letting people have access to your children.

And that's one of the initiatives that we think and talk about a lot.

So this is a really relevant issue for both of us, I think.

I'm sure you probably listened to the whole interview of Tristan Harris and Asa Raskin with Joe Rogan.

And I didn't listen.

Did you listen to the whole interview?

Yeah, I mean, I was I'm already pretty familiar with them and their Center for Humane Technology.

But if our young people are captured by social media narratives and the extreme right and left are the voices that incite rage and therefore power algorithms that are profitable.

You know, how do we go about changing that?

Because that's what I that's what I fear is that

that unless we sort of address that, it's going to be hard to rescue.

Um, you know, millennials for sure.

I don't know what's happening with Gen Z, but the generation coming right behind them, we better have our act together.

We better have this really figured out because I, I fear for Gen Z and what we've allowed, uh, technologists to do to their brains with these really powerful technologies.

Uh, yeah.

What did you think of that interview?


Yeah, I think I mean, I shared the sentiment and I also shared the optimism at the same time that like, if we have thoughtful, benevolent leaders in AI that like the transformations can be life altering and I the other episode that was

really encouraging to me was with the leader of Ways to Wellness on Joe Rogan.

And he's talking about the way that AI can be integrated into the biotech space, and how we really could be close to curing chronic disease,

and cancer and even some of our autoimmune disorders, like the possibilities, talk about human suffering in that space alone, are


And so we, to me, unless, as I think some people have speculated that AGI already exists, and it just hasn't been released upon the world, like there is time to sort of intervene and have, you know, these discussions about how we want this technology to be used for good, as opposed to, you know,

Well, so I wanted to pick up that AGI thread.

There's no AGI.

SPEAKER 1: Kathryn

It just isn't physically possible.

And, you know, Ben Gertzel and, of course, my husband, Bruce Dahmer, they think a lot about this stuff.

Bruce spoke at an AI conference a couple of months ago.

When you hear them break it down, when you hear experts break down what's possible and what's not, there's no AGI.

And so I guess, you know, we don't have time to get into, like, what all the details are of what AGI is versus what AI is, but most experts who are respected in the field who work closely with it agree we're probably at least 10 years off.

and maybe more, that we'd almost have to remake the computing system using, there's some suggestion that we need to use biological wetware models, that there are too many limitations to the chip model.

And maybe that's not the right way to say it.

Maybe it's not chip.

So here we go.

I have just enough information to be dangerous.

But I take your point that these are new technologies that need regulation.

And I'm hoping that somebody like Apple comes out with a phone for children.

That's a really nice, it looks, they're proud to have it.

It's hip, it's fun, but it doesn't have access to wifi and maybe blocks any access to the internet, you know, um, something that limits it.

And yeah, I mean, do you think, do you think that's like, would you let your soon to be child have access to an iPhone at age 12 even?


No, I would go for the kiddie version.

And I think that there if if one's not out on the market right now, that it's in development, and the kiddie version would have like location services turned on Google Maps, that kind of thing.


So you've got sort of the the safety because that's that's the justification among or rather like the parent the pressure that's put on parents right now is, well,

I need to give them a phone so that I know where they are when they're out with their friends.

We're no longer in the era of like, open the door and let the kids go out and run in the neighborhood.

So I get that.

But it's a huge trade off when you think about having these apps on the phone.

And that is certainly not something that I am interested in giving my kids.

SPEAKER 1: Kathryn



You know, something I keep thinking of the automobile, and you've heard me sort of talk about this before, when the automobile was first introduced, it was really problematic.

There weren't stop lights or even stop signs.

And I saw a TikTok the other day, or maybe it was Bruce brought something to my attention that in New York City,

Something like three million pounds of horse poop accumulated every single day.

It was a huge, massive issue and it made people sick, especially in the

You know, poor, like if you watch the Gilded Age, the streets are all nice and clean, right?

But that was in the rich neighborhoods where they could afford to have people coming by constantly.

And so, you know, it became a sewer during rains.

And then when it dried out, it got into the air and caused all kinds of problems.

But people still fought automobiles, even though it was a beautiful new technology.

And, you know, had to.

We didn't let eight year olds drive cars.

We didn't even let 12 year olds drive cars at a certain.

I mean, we did originally, but eventually, you know, 16 in this country, it should be 18.

It's 18 in Europe in order to get a license to drive a car.



You can drink in Germany before you can drive.

And if you think about it, it makes a lot more sense.


That, that makes sense to me.

And my son didn't drive until he, he brought his grade level up in order for us to get the cheaper insurance rates.

Cause if you're like below a B you don't.

So we had that agreement with him and it took him, I don't know.

I can't remember exactly, but I want to say he was 17 when he got his license.

And even that felt too scary, you know, to give a boy with a lot of testosterone, you know, a fast car, a lethal weapon.

So in any event, though, 16, we have all these laws now around cars and licensing.

And I do hope that eventually we think about these technologies in the same way.

But in the meantime, you know,

Moms who have time and dads who have time to actually be with their kids instead of putting them in front of these phones as babysitters so they can get their tasks done.

Or they're just so scattered or working with their own sort of addictions around phones or whatever, right?

This idea of, you know, that we talk a lot about, like the leadership in a home that a full-time householder provides, really embracing that role as also protector of the

the space, the airwaves coming into the home, right?

I mean, traditionally we think of men as being the protectors of the home, and physically they're stronger, and so they were the ones who were the protectors of the home, but now I feel like women have a really important role to play here, now that we're not hunter-gatherers or, you know, farmers or, you know, it's not the Wild West.

Modern culture is that whoever's home

needs to be thinking about how do we protect these four walls so that this is really a sanctuary.

And that includes managing technology in a really responsible way, not letting people have access to your children.

And that's one of the initiatives that we think and talk about a lot.

So this is a really relevant issue for both of us, I think.




And I mean, I think there are some states that have moved to ban the uses of phones in schools, which is really helpful.

SPEAKER 1: Kathryn

Which is shocking that they're allowed anyway.






I what I was going to say, though, is, you know, once you have the phone, it can be a really great opportunity to teach, teach time management and discipline right now that we know and are starting to learn even more about the effects of these smartphones on our youth.

You know, once once my child does have access to a phone with, you know, all the bells and whistles, all the Internet, all the apps, because there will come that time

to teach them from personal experience, but seeing, you know, the data that we have access to now, what does this do and how do you manage?

You know, do you time block?

Okay, I'm going to give myself 20 minutes to do a, you know, hedonistic social media buzz through.

Or, you know, do you... There are ways to leverage this technology.

I mean, the fact that we have access to

All of human knowledge through this little device of ours is amazing.

And we will need to use these devices in our professional lives.


So there is an element of, of value in the in this tool.


It presents for those people that are in leadership positions in the home to really have that conversation with your child about how to use this in a way that is responsible for you and for your mental health as you grow up into adulthood, because it can become a real problem.

SPEAKER 1: Kathryn


And also it's up to us, I think, as mothers and fathers, um, to start to establish new social norms around it.

Because, um, you know, there's a social norm about, uh, you know, you wouldn't walk into somebody's house and see their 12 year old smoking a cigarette.

That's right.

You wouldn't walk into somebody's home and see a 14 or a 16 year old drinking a vodka martini.

So at a certain point, there'll be a social norm also, like, oh gosh, we know that this is harmful to the development of the brain of our child.

even more harmful potentially than cannabis or alcohol for developing brain.

And perhaps through, you know, like the classes that we want to develop, the chapbook that I'm working on right now is the Hearthology chapbook.

It's like, you know, we teach classes on how to manage that.

Maybe that's just part of what we learn in high school is how to think about these technologies.

And I don't know what the answer is, because it'll always be easy.

Like, we don't want over-regulation, right?

When I think about how do you actually regulate this?

How do you prevent kids from connecting to the Wi-Fi?

And maybe it's something like they have phones that have access to certain things, but simply no social media.

The phone absolutely won't run any kind of social media.

But again, I don't know how you do that.

Because all you have to do is connect to the internet and you can connect to social media on some sort of a platform.

But you know, what if it like the kids had a phone that was a certain

you know, size for access to certain things, but they can only access social media on like an iPad or a computer.

And again, maybe it's, maybe we're thinking about it all wrong.

These are just discussions we need to be having.

And again, I don't know how to do this without regulation.

I don't have any ideas and I haven't heard any great ideas, but how do we change the motivation for social media?

Maybe social media networks, you know, maybe the ones that are capitalizing on these algorithms and monetizing our attention, maybe they become taboo socially.

Maybe we have social media networks that are controlled.

You know, and they're all private membership based intranets.

And there are levels of access depending on your age.

So if you're eight, you get to connect with the other, you know, eight to 12 year olds in your community.

through your social media thing.

And then we turn on permissions that allow you, once you're 12, to connect with the 12 and the 16-year-olds or, you know, in terms of just social media.

But you always have access to internet to look up a question about the history of something, right, that you're studying.

So, again, I just hope that there are technologists really thinking about this.

And it seems like Tristan and Asa really are.

At least getting the conversation going, and they've made a tremendous impact with Apple iPhones, right?

The permissions, like these apps aren't allowed to track us the way they used to, and that's a direct result of Tristan and Aza's work with the Center for Humane Technology.


Yeah, well, but I think you're right in saying that, like, in the absence of regulation, like, what do we do now?

Teaching current and future parents

is the answer.

I worry most about the millennials, like I worry most about myself and Gen Z parents who are about to start having children themselves, who are trying to figure out their own relationship with social media.

And, um, you know, the percentage of us who are just, who are not, not thinking about how to

you know, sort of detach themselves who are truly addicted to these apps, who are already like, you know, posting videos of their young children, and in some cases monetizing them.

Like, what effect does their parent style have on their children growing up, right?

Because they're not going to be the ones to say, no, no, let's put the phone away if they're making a living on TikTok.

So, you know, the high school level education is super important.

It's, you know, how do you use this responsibly for yourselves?

But as you become parents in the future, you know, what do you want this relationship to look like for your kids?

SPEAKER 1: Kathryn

Yeah, yeah.

You know, and there are some real issues in terms of getting research funded that prove how harmful this is to the development of your child's brain.

And actually, let's just say it, mind, body, spirit, right?

All of it.

And, you know, cigarettes

In the 50s and 60s, that research, I think, was funded through universities.

I think our system is so different now, it's hard to get this funding to do the research.

And so I think one of the ways, and I hope tech companies will listen to us as we, you know, as our nonprofit moves into that world and starts talking to some of these leaders, that we

That we suggest to them that one of the ways they can build trust with parents is by changing how they manage social media.

There's an opportunity for them to build trust with us.

if they're the ones doing the research, they're the ones funding it, they're the richest companies in the world, why wouldn't they fund the research that shows, you know, this is bad technology for kids.

And for that reason, we are going to create this type of technology for kids instead.

And yeah, so I don't know, I just, somebody's got to be creatively thinking about this.

And I wonder,

I mean, you know, I live near Silicon Valley and Bruce was pretty enmeshed in that world for many years.

And, you know, I know some really conscientious, wonderful people, but I see a lot of tech bros and they're rewarded for running fast and hard and breaking things.

you know, and technology, technology, technology that that can earn, you know, billionaire investors more money.

It's like, man, at a certain point, the model has to shift.

And it's up to these big tech giants, I think, to, to lead that, that sort of movement.

Hearth Matters
Hearth Matters Podcast
Join us in thought-provoking discussion about the connection between home life and human flourishing in the 21st century.
Hearth Matters nonprofit co-founders and householders Kathryn Lukas-Damer and Erin Szuma interview experts and ordinary women who are rethinking, revaluing and reinventing home & hearth. Kathryn, in the matriarchal phase of her life, embodies the wisdom and practical knowledge of a lifelong entrepreneur, local food system expert and mother of a grown son, while Erin, a Millennial with her first baby on the way, shares her journey as a new mother navigating career and family life.
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