You know how they say in the old days, that the Mafia used to sell drugs, but was strict about keeping its own members from using the product they sold? I thought of that when I read this NYT piece about how some of the top people in high tech, including the late Steve Jobs, are very strict on allowing their children access to online technology. Excerpts:
Since then, I’ve met a number of technology chief executives and venture capitalists who say similar things: they strictly limit their children’s screen time, often banning all gadgets on school nights, and allocating ascetic time limits on weekends.
I was perplexed by this parenting style. After all, most parents seem to take the opposite approach, letting their children bathe in the glow of tablets, smartphones and computers, day and night.
Yet these tech C.E.O.’s seem to know something that the rest of us don’t.
Chris Anderson, the former editor of Wired and now chief executive of 3D Robotics, a drone maker, 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.”
So, what about the Jobs family values, re: iPhones, iPads, and MacBooks?:
I never asked Mr. Jobs what his children did instead of using the gadgets he built, so I reached out to Walter Isaacson, the author of “Steve Jobs,” who spent a lot of time at their home.
“Every evening Steve made a point of having dinner at the big long table in their kitchen, discussing books and history and a variety of things,” he said. “No one ever pulled out an iPad or computer. The kids did not seem addicted at all to devices.”
From this article, the most valuable piece of advice is: no screens in bedrooms, ever. What’s especially interesting about this piece is that the parents seem driven as much or more by a fear that their kids will become addicted to this medium as they are by fear of the content that will reach their kids through the medium. Read the whole thing.
Now that I’m a father, I’m amazed by how much TV my generation’s parents let us watch, with virtually no restrictions at all. Yet this article makes me wonder the extent to which my generation of parents are fighting the last war. I mean, I’m pretty good about restricting the amount of TV my kids watch, but I am not as good about the iDevice situation. If I have a more liberal policy on these things than Steve Freaking Jobs, something’s not right.