What Tech Leaders Won't Let Their Own Children Do

Updated: Sep 6, 2018

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Apa Yang Para Pemimpin Di Industri Teknologi Tidak Membiarkan Anak-anak Mereka Sendiri Lakukan

Today we live in a #Digital Age where we depend so much on #technology, that not only much of our daily lives revolves around it, we also become so used to seeing kids with tablets, teens with iPhones or Androids, and even babies with iPads. Living in Jakarta, it's a common sight of a whole table of a family sitiing with each person in the table busy with their own gadget, or that same sight in a whole cafe, or even a whole concert event with everyone often looking into their gadget screens more than they look at the event show itself.

Being today's parent addicted to our own tech toys, and as much as we cannot deny the uses and benefits of these tech in our lives, raising children with habits vulnerable to being addictive to electronic screens and devices is not recommended at all by the inventors of these gadgets themselves and by the tech leaders in the industry. Strict limits of technology use is what they apply in their own children daily lives.

Who are the tech leaders who believes in limiting the use of technology and what are their approach on handling their own kids with it?

Excerpts from The New York Times article by Nick Bilton

Steve Jobs, An American information technology entrepreneur and inventor. Co-founder, chairman, and chief executive officer (CEO) of Apple Inc.

In an interview with Nick Bilton from The New York Times in 2010, the reporter had imagined the Jobs’s household was like a nerd’s paradise: that the walls were giant touch screens, the dining table was made from tiles of iPads and that iPods were handed out to guests like chocolates on a pillow.

He was shocked that when he asked Mr. Jobs “So, your kids must love the iPad?”, the reply he got was "They haven’t used it," then “We limit how much technology our kids use at home.”

Chris Anderson, former editor of Wired and now chief executive of 3D Robotics, a drone maker.

Chris has instituted time limits and parental controls on every device in his home. “My kids accuse me and my wife of being fascists and overly concerned about tech, and they say that none of their friends have the same rules,” he said of his five children, 6 to 17. “That’s because we have seen the dangers of technology firsthand. I’ve seen it in myself, I don’t want to see that happen to my kids.”

Alex Constantinople, the chief executive of the OutCast Agency, a tech-focused communications and marketing firm, said her youngest son, who is 5, is never allowed to use gadgets during the week, and her older children, 10 to 13, are allowed only 30 minutes a day on school nights.

Evan Williams, a founder of Blogger, Twitter and Medium, and his wife, Sara Williams, said that in lieu of iPads, their two young boys have hundreds of books (yes, physical ones) that they can pick up and read anytime.

The risk and dangers of technology overuse, though may not be limited to but most concerning for children, ranges from safety concerns such as exposure to harmful contents such as violence or pornography; to developmental concerns such as lack of creativity, lack of patience, and lack of human connection; but most especially the mental and physical health risk which includes significant negative effects on children’s behavior, health and school performance as well as the increase of physical, psychological and behavior disorders. These are effects that health and education systems are just beginning to detect, including also the even more serious effects such as developmental delays, sensory processing disorder and obesity, increased blood pressure, and cognitive development.

Excerpts from The Guardian article by Amy Fleming

Jonathan Ive, former righthand man of Steve Jobs - senior vice-president of design at Apple Inc, whose design for the iPad is so simple that toddlers can operate it, recently revealed that he sets strict limits for his 10-year-old twin boys.

Pierre Laurent, former Microsoft and Intel marketing manager. He has two daughters, aged nine and 15, and a 17-year-old son. "We allowed screen time for our son until he was two. Then I read a book called The Growth Of The Mind, by Stanley Greenspan, which explains how we learn when we are small through our interaction with the world, and because of emotions."

"You could offer an hour’s screen time a day, but media products are designed to keep people’s attention. It’s not that there’s an intent to harm children, but there’s an intent to keep them engaged. In the late 90s, when I was working at Intel and my first child was born, we had what was called the “war of the eyeballs”. People don’t want you to wander and start playing with another product, so it has a hooking effect. It looks like it’s soothing your child and keeping them busy so you can do something else, but that effect is not very good for small children.

It stops them discovering the world with their senses. And there’s a risk to attention. It’s not scientifically proven yet, but there’s an idea that attention is like a muscle that we build. It’s about being able to tune out all the distraction and focus on one thing. When you engage with these devices, you don’t build that capacity. It’s computer-aided attention; you’re not learning to do it."

Karim Dia Toubajie, an interaction designer at band-and-gig-tracking website Songkick, and previously worked for PlayStation. He has a 16-month-old daughter and lives in London. "My wife and I are pretty conscious about exposing our daughter to too much early on. We both like creative play, so prefer her to focus on toys, crayons and books. She seems more stimulated by texture, smell and physical movement, which digital can’t really provide."

"At Christmas, we spent a weekend with a six-year-old who watched Minecraft YouTube videos for about 10 hours daily, and I’m conscious of how easy it might be for children to get obsessed with digital. Working in technology, I’m also aware how these channels are designed for continual user journeys, with no defined end point. Some games that parents consider harmless, like Farmville, encourage in-app purchases in order to progress in the game, and stories have circulated online about people becoming so obsessed with it that they’re neglecting their children, or children have taken their parents’ credit cards. These kinds of games are designed to capture revenue by capitalising on certain parts of human nature, to be addictive."

"But I’ll take a similar approach to my parents: I didn’t get a computer until I was 11, and then it was one hour a day. I’d like my daughter to have a diverse set of hobbies, and not get obsessed."

Steiner Waldorf schools, which exclude screen time before the age of 12 in favour of physical activity, art and experiential learning, are particularly popular with Silicon Valley executives and their UK counterparts. Kevin Avison, executive officer of the Steiner Waldorf Schools Fellowship in the UK, says that when he was teaching near Reading, “nearly 50% of parents of children in the class worked at Oracle or other hi-tech computer companies”.

This approach is much more stringent than official guidelines recommend. The American Academy of Pediatrics discourages any screen time for the first two years of life, but after that recommends no more than one to two hours a day, no screens in children’s bedrooms and enforcing meal-time and bedtime media-device curfews. In the UK, the only official screen-time ruling comes from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, which recently advised trying TV-free days, or limiting it to fewer than two hours a day, to maintain a healthy weight.

So how do we as today's parents set the proper technology boundaries for our children?

Some think, a total ban in this modern digital age might backfire and create a digital monster. Example case told by Dick Costolo, chief executive of Twitter, of "this guy" who lived in the dorm next to him when he was at the University of Michigan who had cases and cases of Coca-Cola and other sodas in his room. Mr. Costolo then later found out that it was because his parents had never let him have soda when he was growing up.

A balance of daily strict limits and allowance of technology use based on age, school nights, and the use purpose, seems to be the route taken by these tech parents.

Children under 10 seem to be most susceptible to becoming addicted, so these parents draw the line at not allowing any gadgets during the week. On weekends, there are limits of 30 minutes to two hours on iPad and smartphone use. And 10- to 14-year-olds are allowed to use computers on school nights, but only for homework.

“We have a strict no screen time during the week rule for our kids,” said Lesley Gold, founder and chief executive of the SutherlandGold Group, a tech media relations and analytics company. “But you have to make allowances as they get older and need a computer for school.”

Some parents also forbid teenagers from using social networks, except for services like Snapchat, which deletes messages after they have been sent. This way they don’t have to worry about saying something online that will haunt them later in life.

When the tech parents who are actually in the technology industry are making such serious efforts in their concern of the use of the tech devices in their own children lives, while them being the founder, inventor, designer, top officers and marketers of the companies which creates and sells these devices, we too need to wake up and re-evaluate our own children's daily relationship and exposure to tech and gadgets. Our children is the first generation ever to be raised and exposed in a digital environment, studies and research on the impacts on internet use and advance in technology have just begun as the growing concern by child rights organizations, regulators, the private sector and other stakeholders that children’s rights need to be realised online as well as offline.

As much as we're fond of these androids and stuff, we don't want to raise our children to become one, do we? Reorienting and putting back technology's position in its functional purpose in our lives - as a tool that help us living and working towards our purpose in life, instead of the other way around, letting ourselves to be enslaved by revolving our life around it, might just be the first step we need to take in our family life.

Image credit (edited from):

Photos courtesy of and copyright Free Range Stock, freerangestock.com

References & sources:

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