It's a common sight now to see toddlers at complete ease with an iPad. Children who can get around their parents' smartphone even faster than they can and teenagers glued to their screens, jacked in to social media.
There is a lot of research and debate about the impact of these devices on children. While once touted as hi-tech multimedia portals of education and engaged learning, people are becoming increasingly wary of their addictive nature and negative impact on children's minds.
In a great twist of irony, the trend of keeping children tech-free is sweeping across the homes of Silicon Valley billionaires, the very ones responsible for much of this technology.
Over the past few years, the consensus has peaked with parents preventing access to screens of any kind from smartphones, tablets, laptops and TVs. These parents are also making nannies sign 'no-phone use contracts' that prevent them from devices in the home. Nannies who use devices around children are even being called out by other parents on private groups and social networks.
The Waldorf School, one of the most popular schools in the region, ban the use of screens and computers, citing the inhibition of creativity, movement, interaction and attention spans in child development. Parents of children in attendance are employees of tech giants like Google, Apple, Yahoo, HP and eBay.
Here's a snapshot of what some of these Silicon Valley titans have to say.
“We often set a time after which there is no screen time and in their case that helps them get to sleep at a reasonable hour."
“You’re always looking at how it can be used in a great way – homework and staying in touch with friends – and also where it has gotten to excess."
“We don’t have cellphones at the table when we are having a meal, we didn’t give our kids cellphones until they were 14 and they complained other kids got them earlier.”
– Bill Gates, Founder, Microsoft (Mirror)
"Still, as a mother who wants to make sure her children are safe and happy, I worry. And I think back to how I might have done things differently. Parents should decide for themselves what works for their family, but I probably would have waited longer before putting a computer in my children’s pockets. Phones and apps aren’t good or bad by themselves, but for adolescents who don’t yet have the emotional tools to navigate life’s complications and confusions, they can exacerbate the difficulties of growing up: learning how to be kind, coping with feelings of exclusion, taking advantage of freedom while exercising self-control. It’s more important than ever to teach empathy from the very beginning, because our kids are going to need it."
– Melinda Gates, Former Microsoft employee and co-founder of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (The Washington Post)
"I don't believe in overuse [of technology]. I'm not a person that says we've achieved success if you're using it all the time. I don't subscribe to that at all. Even in computer-aided courses, such as graphic design, technology should not dominate. I don't have a kid, but I have a nephew that I put some boundaries on. There are some things that I won't allow; I don't want them on a social network."
– Tim Cook, CEO of Apple (The Guardian)
"We know at some point they will need to get their own phones. But we are prolonging it as long as possible."
"The tech companies do know that the sooner you get kids, adolescents, or teenagers used to your platform, the easier it is to become a lifelong habit"
– Vijay Koduri, former employee at Google (Business Insider)
When Steve Jobs was interviewed about his kid's use of the iPad, he said, “They haven’t used it. We limit how much technology our kids use at home.”
– Steve Jobs, Co-founder of Apple (The New York Times)
"It literally changes your relationship with society, with each other. It probably interferes with productivity in weird ways. God only knows what it's doing to our children's brains."
"The thought process that went into building these applications, Facebook being the first of them, was all about: 'How do we consume as much of your time and conscious attention as possible?'"
"And that means that we need to sort of give you a little dopamine hit every once in a while, because someone liked or commented on a photo or a post or whatever. And that's going to get you to contribute more content, and that's going to get you … more likes and comments."
"It's a social-validation feedback loop … exactly the kind of thing that a hacker like myself would come up with, because you're exploiting a vulnerability in human psychology."
"The inventors, creators — it's me, it's Mark [Zuckerberg], it's Kevin Systrom on Instagram, it's all of these people — understood this consciously. And we did it anyway."
– Sean Parker, Former President at Facebook (Axios)
Evan Williams, a founder of Blogger, Twitter and Medium said that his two young boys have access to hundreds of physical books instead of an iPad. (The New York Times)
“The short-term, dopamine-driven feedback loops that we have created are destroying how society works. No civil discourse, no cooperation, misinformation, mistruth.”
"I can control my decision, which is that I don’t use that shit. I can control my kids’ decisions, which is that they’re not allowed to use that shit.”
– Chamath Palihapitiya, Former VP for User Growth at Facebook (Stanford Business School)
“On the scale between candy and crack cocaine, it’s closer to crack cocaine."
“We thought we could control it. And this is beyond our power to control. This is going straight to the pleasure centers of the developing brain. This is beyond our capacity as regular parents to understand.”
“I didn’t know what we were doing to their brains until I started to observe the symptoms and the consequences. This is scar tissue talking. We’ve made every mistake in the book, and I think we got it wrong with some of my kids. We glimpsed into the chasm of addiction, and there were some lost years, which we feel bad about.”
– Chris Anderson, former Editor Wired magazine (The New York Times)