How to Lead a Low-Tech Life in the Digital Age
How technology leaders such as Steve Jobs have equipped their own children in the digital age.
The late Steve Jobs was a low-tech parent.
When should we get our children smart phones? Should they have their own laptops or iPads? Our children and some of our adult friends are telling us kids will be “behind” if they don’t have the latest technology. What’s a parent to do?
We all love our children and want the best for them, so it’s natural to want them to have an edge, some sort of advantage, when it comes to keeping up with technology. Yet deep down we know that we should be protecting their childhood at the same time. Do we follow the lead of the other parents around us, our friends? Or should we look beyond them, to some true leaders in the field of technology?
If you are uncertain or worried that your children will be left behind if you limit technology in their lives by taking the unconventional, unpopular path your gut is telling you to take—think again. The top CEOs, leaders and owners of many high-tech companies, including Apple, Google, Microsoft, Twitter and Facebook, all have one thing in common: many of their children are being raised relatively tech free. When technology is allowed, these savvy parents place limits, because they know that in a child’s world technology can easily become a toy that is distracting him from essential childhood activities such as talking to mom and dad at the dinner table, reading, playing baseball with his brother in the backyard or riding her bike. Yes, I know it is hard to believe, but it is true.
An October 2014 article in The New York Times, Steve Jobs Was a Low-Tech Parent , tells of Mr. Jobs' surprising response when asked how his children liked the new iPad. “They haven’t used it yet. We limit how much technology our kids use at home.” The CEO and co-founder of Apple, the late Steve Jobs, would not even let his children have an iPad, which Apple invented. Now there is a good line next time your child is begging for another screen. Tell her: ‘The guy whose company invented it wouldn’t give it to his own kids, sweetie! He must have had a good reason!”
These technology chief executives obviously know something that most of us don’t know. Let’s just say that they know the detailed science behind what every mom feels deep down in her heart: because overuse is harmful to young children, technology must be used carefully and in moderation as they grow into older teens. These leaders set strict tech limits and many of them prohibit screens (including phones) in their children’s bedrooms. Many of their children also attend low-tech schools, such as Waldorf schools. They know that the business of childhood brain development is best accomplished when the child can develop and utilize many different neuronal pathways; they are aware of the potential harm from so much time spent in the virtual world.
Will tech overuse (gaming, social media) hurt your child? Yes, it will. It is not a benign activity. It causes the release of neurochemicals which, if out of balance, can change the actual structure (neuronal pathways) of the brain replacing necessary foundational pathways.
Will moderate use (whatever that is) hurt him? Maybe. This generation is part of the experimental phase of this new frontier that features a screen in the hands of every child. The verdict is still out.
Will little or no tech (gaming or social media) hurt him? No. Why? Because children have more important brain-building activities to take care of before they soak their brains with entertainment or adult technology.
Limited/balanced tech use and more traditional “play” when he is young will allow important brain development to take place that he will need later in life. When he is an older teen, he will be able to use that balanced brain to utilize technology as a tool in his life instead of a toy. Not only will he be able to easily jump on the technology train at that point, but he also may even be able to drive it! I am pretty sure that Bill Gates didn’t play Minecraft or Call of Duty all day—or whatever the technology of the time was. His biography speaks of a life rich with family time and family connections, responsibilities, board games and plenty of time to play, tinker, think and create.
Join the ranks of technology leaders and tech savvy parents and follow their advice on this one. But first do your own research so you can make the right decision for your family. Rethink the purpose of each technology screen in your child’s hands and know there is a benefit to erring on the side of caution on this issue, Mom and Dad. Your child will not be behind. In fact, he may actually be further ahead than you think!