Steve Jobs was the father of two teenage girls and a son when he passed away in 2011. These kids grew up with a visionary father who co-founded one of the best-known tech companies. Jobs led the world into the digital age with gadgets that transformed the way we listen to music, watch movies, communicate, live our lives.
You would imagine that his children’s rooms would have been filled with iPods, iPhones and iPads.
That’s not the case. In an article in the Sunday New York Times, reporter Nick Bilton says he once asked Jobs “So, your kids must love the iPad?” Jobs response: “They haven’t used it. We limit how much technology our kids use at home.”
The Times article examines the growing trend among the California Silicon Valley tech set to limit children’s technology use. Many of the people behind the social media platforms, gadgets and games that are consuming our kids’ time and minds aren’t actually allowing their own children to waste an entire Saturday afternoon playing Minecraft on the iPad.
A quote in The Times from Chris Anderson, father of five and chief executive of 3D Robotics, pretty much defines why Anderson and his colleagues are limiting technology at 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,” says Anderson, formerly the editor of Wired. “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.”
Some of these Silicon Valley engineers and execs are even going to the extreme of sending their kids to computer-free schools. A Times story from 2011 reported that engineers and execs from Apple, eBay, Google, Hewlett-Packard and Yahoo are sending their kids to a Waldorf elementary school in Los Altos, Calif., where you won’t find a single computer or screen of any sort. Also, kids are discouraged from watching television or logging on at home.
Alan Eagle, who works in executive communications at Google and has a degree in computer science from Dartmouth, has a fifth grader who attends the school and he told the Times that she “doesn’t know how to use Google.”
The thinking is that technology interferes with creativity and young minds learn best through movement, hands-on tasks, and human-to-human interaction. Students at this school are gaining math, patterning, and problem-solving skills by knitting socks. They aren’t exposed to fractions through a computer program. Instead they learn about halves and quarters by cutting up food.
Are you surprised by any of this? Bilton certainly was when he had that conversation with Jobs in 2010. Bilton spoke with the Apple boss many times and says learning that Jobs was a low-tech parent was the most shocking bit of information that he ever heard. Shocking for me too…and now I wonder is tech good or bad at such a young age…my grand daughter is already an iPad expert.