The middle part of Alter’s book is illuminating on the ways that designers engineer behavioural addiction. He examines goal-setting, and why users of Fitbits often exercise to the point of injury; the dangers of inconsistent but rewarding feedback (counting those 'likes'); the importance of a sense of progress (such as counting followers, or advancing through a game) ... Some will find this shrill and alarmist – new technology has always had its catastrophisers ... Connectivity is here to stay, and Alter suggests that parents in conflict with their kids over it would do well to stay approachable, calm, informed and realistic, and remember that technology brings solutions along with problems.
Alter’s sweep is broad: He includes not just the more obvious addictive technologies such as slot machines and video games, but the whole sweep of social media, dating apps, online shopping and other binge-inducing programs. He takes in everything whose business model depends on being irresistible (which today is most things). If he’s right, most of us are nursing at least a few minor 'behavioral addictions' and perhaps a major one as well. By the end of his enjoyable yet alarming book, you may be convinced that Alter is right and want to seriously rethink the behavioral addictions in your life ... Alter directs his sharpest criticism at those who are intentionally designing addictive technologies — that is, much of the high-tech industry.
...[an] unsettling but riveting book ... He convincingly argues that technology is increasingly engineered to be addictive, making all of us, but especially children, vulnerable to its dangers ... Unfortunately, after Alter sells us so convincingly on the idea that our immersive relationship to tech is hindering our human relationships and our overall quality of life, the solutions he offers hardly feel up to the task.