Learning Break: Harnessing the Positive Power of the Internet - Brad Brown

It’s a pervasive, and universal, problem. In the age of the Internet, kids are glued to their devices — and often, not for learning purposes. Hour by hour, day by day, they are bombarded by videos, social media, and aggressive advertising that can be harmful to their growth and offline activities.

We’re in conversation with Brad Brown, a purpose-driven entrepreneur and strategic collaborator who is working to re-channel kids’ screentime into learning opportunities.

Brad, you’ve launched a new venture called Learning Break. Can you explain for us the concept of your company?

We all know kids are spending way too much time at the computer screen. Many concerned parties have tried to address this challenge, but current solutions have lots of holes. Some parents have given up.

I see an opportunity to create a sustainable solution to the too-much-screentime issue. Instead of kids being bombarded by commercial breaks when online, they have an opportunity through Learning Break to absorb useful lessons and get ideas about fun offline activities.

We’re changing the rules of online life to give parents their rightful role as guide. It’s not about our website or app. We’re re-imagining the entire ad-based Internet. Wherever you see ads today, you can see lessons and messages to help us grow and learn. This change in the advertising model yields several benefits and ultimately works long term toward the greater good of our society.

This venture, as you talk about it, seems to come truly from your heart, from your passion, and from a real desire to tackle a societal problem. Is that what prompted you to create Learning Break?

Yes. 100 percent. It’s surely a business opportunity that can scale and be run profitably, but — at the core — it’s driven by the goal of helping as many young people as possible to have a more productive online experience and a better balance between offline and online life.

Did you have an ‘Aha’ moment that planted the seed for your business?

It was a series of moments. My wife and I have three children, ages 14, 12, and 9. Like any parent, we love our kids and have tried to create a nurturing home life for them. But we were increasingly frustrated by the time they spent at the computer screen, so much so that it was crowding out their other interests and diminishing their ability to connect authentically with their family and friends — face to face.

I realized we were not alone in our experience. So many parents feel they don’t have agency anymore in their family life. Their house is full of people on a Saturday morning, for example, but it’s eerily quiet. All you hear is mouses clicking and game controllers clacking. The moments parents are engaging and bonding with their children are diminishing. The kids are literally in another world, a virtual one, and — as a parent — you’re not there. You may as well not be in the house.

My business background is from an environment of buying and selling commodities at lightning-fast speed. As I looked into how on-screen content and ads are delivered to kids, I learned that the ads are bought and sold similarly to my experience on Wall Street. It’s a world of fast exchanges, complex networks, and auction processes.

One day, as I watched my son absorbed in some junky video, an ad for a toy car came up with the push to buy that toy now. The anticipated revenue for whatever is being sold is what drives the video content. Content creators will do whatever they can to keep kids immersed so those ads can play — and money can be made.

Then I thought, what if I bought that ad slot? Instead of pushing a ‘buy this toy car’ message, the message could be about the inner workings of an electric motor. Kids are infinitely curious. They love to know how things work. They may still want the car, true, but maybe they would be just as happy having their questions answered. What, then, if some of those ads became teaching opportunities? Could kids be learning the skills of the future?

That’s how Learning Break broke through. The goal is to repurpose embedded ads in any app or website with educational content. Instead of parents fighting the attachment kids have to their screens, they can tap into that attachment — with a newfound agency over their kids’ online experience and their family life, overall.

This is a fascinating concept, Brad. Thank you for sharing it with us!

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Brad Brown has a distinguished history of detecting problems and creating solutions through technology. He brings to the Learning Break venture his years of expertise in working with complex systems on Wall Street — leveraging that knowledge today in pursuit of the greater good.

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