Friday Faves is our weekly blog series highlighting a few select pieces from the REG team’s reading lists. You can catch up on past Friday Faves on the archive

Digital Distraction: too much screen time makes you…

Anne says: Fill in the gap… Too much screen time makes you… 1) dumber, 2) an addict, 3) reduces memory capacity, 4) gives you poor eyesight, 5) a hunch back or mobile neck, 6) anti-social… Shall I go on? Every week I see another article (on my screen) about the impact of too much screen time, the distractions caused by constant notifications, the impact to children’s learning capabilities, the stress levels caused by emails at work… and much more.

A couple of weeks ago I attended a meet-up: The Neuroscience of Digital Distractions. It sounded really interesting… but then… soon plummeted into a session about addiction and how bad digital tools (mainly smartphones) are for us. I immediately react against these sort of claims – I don’t subscribe to the addiction school of thought. Some people may have habits they find difficult to manage or change – but that’s not addiction. And certainly our smartphone usage can become a habit that is difficult to control and the impact of these habits are still being studied. (I recall very similar conversations about watching TV). But in this session, we were expected to all agree how bad are phones are – I felt like I was joining an AA meeting. Where I particularly take exception is when we’re provided with causation of our behaviours that is based on popular psychology or neuro-pop-science with flimsy evidence based on anecdotes or personal experiences. The descriptions of hormonal effects of using our phones – the dopamine influence or reward system that causes addiction was actually describing the symptoms related to a heightened state of alert – that’s adrenaline, not dopamine. We were then provided with solutions, ways we could fix our addiction – including using a de-stressing app called Calm App!! But wait… it’s an app.. it’s on my phone.. that I’m already addicted to?

But I’ve deviated from the article I’m recommending. This article in Wired inserts a more rational, contextual opinion to the mainstream media scaremongering and neuro-pop-science about screen time. Rather than focusing on how much time we’re spending on our screens, the studies should be looking at how we spend the time, what are we using our devices for. The recent study from the Oxford Internet Institute believes they’ve identified how the data collected has led to the interpretation of overuse. The amount of data collected from surveys and analytics is enormous and the process of evaluating and analysing the quantities leaves it too open for inference to support a hypothesis. The key finding on the association between screen time and our well being:

“They’re tiny. Way too tiny to warrant the claims you’ve read that we’re all addicted to our devices, that excessive screen time is the new smoking, or that smartphones have led large swaths of society to the brink of the greatest mental health crisis in decades.”

How do we validate research and avoid further misinterpretations? The article introduces a new research body: the Social Science One – part of Harvard University – that has been approved to give researchers access to data inside Facebook and publish findings without Facebook’s approval. (Can you imagine trying to negotiate that??!!). The essential contribution here will be a framework for research – ethical, independent and secure. A research framework that will allow repeatable, comparative studies avoiding assumptions and interpretations to suit various stakeholders’ agendas.

So the next time you feel the need to look at your screen, remember, there really is very little evidence to suggest you’re addicted. And, you may also be using your device for worthwhile purposes! (See you online (wink))


Dogs are teaching humans to be better bosses in this management training program

Whoopi says: Aaaawwwww, cute puppies!!!

I can hear you now – everyone goes all soft and gooey over fluffy puppies! Personally, they’re just another group that need their behaviour shaped (aka training) – although I prefer the approach of guiding and mentoring – which is why this article particularly resonated with me. I have extensive experience in managing young ones, having had a few litters myself and also helped other young mothers manage their entourages! But what I’ve found more rewarding, and challenging, is working with people. Shaping their behaviours to understand my needs, while at the same time providing people with a supportive environment to extend their communication skills.

I know Anne says training is for dogs and babies, but I beg to differ. Dogs, just like people, combine complex patterns of communication to navigate their way through every day. Now, what I love about the program described in this article, is the use of guide dogs to draw awareness to communication patterns. Anne is one of the best-trained humans around, I didn’t have to work on her that much, she was already familiar with complex people/dog communications from her experience as a volunteer with the Guide Dogs.

There’s a valuable comment made by Richard Bauer, a blind person with his guide dog Logan:

“… demonstrate consistency in the treatment of people around you, Brauer said, using his partnership with Logan, his current dog, as an example.

“I treat Logan with the greatest respect and the same way every day,” said Brauer. “What happens if you are happy one day, angry the next? … Logan wakes up every day knowing it’ll be a good day because I’m consistent in being humble, kind and if I ask him for something, he knows from my tone, that I am going to help him succeed.”

This describes my perfect working relationship with all my team, Sansa and Lluna, they always know their boundaries, while I mentor them to adopt the special style of communication needed between dogs and people. I would personally recommend everyone spends some time with dogs, we have so much to share with you and if we can all learn to communicate more effectively it will improve the likelihood of a contented state of well being (something all dogs strive for).


Cyber attacks are on the rise — and the biggest problem is you

Joel says: When people think of hackers they often picture someone sitting in a dark room, furiously typing away at a screen full of code and binary digits trying their best to bypass firewalls or crack a database to gain access to our personal information. We have Hollywood to thank for that perception. The fact is that most hackers gain access to your secured data because you let them.

Michael Connory, chief executive of Security In Depth says that:

“Ninety per cent of cyber attacks worldwide begin with an email. Most organisations don’t really look at their email security that carefully. Everybody is vulnerable. Australian organisations have no idea how vulnerable they are.”

We’ve all received them, I personally have at least one hit my inbox just about every week. Phishing emails. The ones that seem like they’re from reputable companies, some that you may not even have services with telling you to log in and update your details. It’s worth knowing how to spot a phishing email if you don’t know already. If you aren’t sure what to look for then check out Safety Detective’s ‘Ultimate Guide to Staying Safe from Phishing’.

Organisations are only as strong as their weakest link when it comes to security. In the article Michael explains that the easiest way for a hacker to gain access into an organisation is via a phishing email. Upon clicking the link and attempting to log in a staff member can quite easily and inadvertently give their username and password to a hacker.

Michael, who classifies himself as an ‘ethical hacker’ mentions in the article that hundreds of thousands of people have the skills required to break into an organisation. Even his 14 year old daughter was able to learn how to do it after watching a short video on YouTube.

“Most of the time a hacker will just sit there, watching,” Mr Connory said.

“In Australia, on average, a hacker will stay in an organisation for eight months before they’re even found. They’ve got access to emails, financial statements, to confidential company IP (intellectual property), they’ve got access to customer databases.

“By staying ‘in’ an organisation for such a long time they can start to see and read and be privy to a huge range of sensitive information.”

But you don’t need to be part of the problem, you can help prevent handing over your data in the first place. Check out the resource I linked above and make sure you’re aware and up to date with cybersecurity practices so you’re best equipped to not let it happen to you. And check out the rest of the article to read more about the impact phishing scams have had on various organisations and what the military and banks are doing to try and keep your data safe.


10 Year Challenge: How Popular Websites Have Changed

Jakkii says: a light one from me this week, but one I think is quite interesting. Remember that #10yearchallenge that everyone was doing on social media a month or so ago? This is the website version, where the author has hopped in the wayback machine to bring us a look at how some of the most popular websites of today looked back in early 2009.

Even the simplest, arguably most uninspired websites with regards to design have seen change. My take is the biggest trend across them all is a move towards more dominant visuals, something we see across websites of all forms and within intranets and internal-facing platforms as well. Other trends I see include much cleaner aesthetics with more whitespace, refined and simplified navigation, and better, clearer groupings of content (where relevant). Search bars are also bigger and, in some cases, much more prominently featured. Overall the trends show a push towards visual consumption of content (mirrored by the rise of platforms like Instagram, Pinterest & Snapchat), and improving usability, readability, and findability.

Have a good look at each of the examples in the post and let me know if you agree with my take on the main trends. Were there any others you’d include?


This week in social media




Everything else

Sydney Business Insights – The future of you

The Future, This Week podcast is on holiday hiatus, so this week we bring you an article and video from Sydney Business Insights on Understanding humans: The future of you.

Your future is not yet written: Yes automation, AI and the digital economy threaten us all with a jobless, alienated and increasingly lonely life. But the choices regarding the use and purpose of technology are still just that – decisions that are being made every day by companies, governments and individuals. Here’s some ideas currently being tested that aim to put people at the centre of discussions about a better AI future.


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