Top Tech Executives and Their Low-Tech Kids

I tend to trust the experts. When Guy Fieri told me (and millions of other viewers) to check out a burger joint in San Diego, I’m glad I listened. That was a delicious (if not entirely healthy) burger, fries, and shake combo. I trust a financial advisor to navigate the crazy world of retirement planning. And I visit a trusted mechanic whenever my car breaks down.  So naturally, I turn to the experts—the tech executives themselves—to see what they think about tech and their own kids. 

Turns out top tech executives, those closest to the products and arguably most familiar with their potential harms, set strict screen time limits for the children in their families. In fact, in many cases, these tech experts shy away from screen time for children altogether in favor of low-tech activities that encourage creativity, learning, and social interaction. 

What Do the Experts Say?

This argument began to take shape when Nick Bilton published an article in The New York Times in 2014. According to Bilton, Steve Jobs recognized the dangers of too much screen time for children . Jobs told Bilton, “We limit how much technology our kids use at home.”

And Jobs was not alone in his opinion. Here is what other top tech execs have said about tech in their homes, according to Business Insider.

  • In 2017, Google CEO Sundar Pichai admitted that he limits screen time for the children in his family. He even tries to limit his own phone and computer use. 
  • Even though their daughter is only two, Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian and tennis star Serena Williams hope to balance limited screen time with low-tech entertainment like blocks and other hands-on toys.
  • “Shark Tank” star Mark Cuban monitors his kids’ internet use with special routers—”and [shuts] down all activities when they go over their set screen-time limits.”
  • Evan Spiegel, co-founder and CEO of Snapchat, tightly limits his 8-year-old daughter’s screen time each week. “Spiegel himself grew up not watching TV as a kid, and has said it forced him to read, build things, and think for himself.” He wants to pass those same benefits on to his kids.

What do the Experts Know?

These tech executives know something we might not. Copious amounts of time, money, and effort go into making tech irresistible to us and our kids. And if we’re not careful, we can fall into the trap of distraction, or worse, addiction before we know what hit us. And it’s worse for our young kids. 

According to Business Insider, “A 2017 survey conducted by the Silicon Valley Community Foundation found among 907 Silicon Valley parents that, despite high confidence in technology’s benefits, many parents now have serious concerns about tech’s impact on kids’ psychological and social development.” These Silicon Valley parents are right in the trenches of tech development. If they have cause to worry, we should too.

This same article noted: “Former employees at major tech companies, some of them high-level executives, have gone public to condemn the companies’ intense focus on building addictive tech products. The discussions have triggered further research from the psychology community, all of which has gradually convinced many parents that a child’s palm is no place for devices so potent.”

In fact, many tech executives and employees have enrolled their kids in low- or no-tech schools to encourage face-to face interaction and enhanced creativity. They also actively participate in low- or no-tech family time in their homes to reinforce healthy tech use. 

Our Takeaway

It’s probably not realistic to think we can turn the clock back 30 years to pre-tech lifestyles. Afterall, in many ways our tech enhances our modern world. (I wouldn’t have been able to discover what tech executives think about tech without using my tech). But we can take a page out of their insider’s handbook. If this is how they feel about tech for their own kids, maybe we should take note. If too much tech is not good for the children they love the most, maybe too much tech is not good for the children we love the most. So consider setting screen time limits for your children.