According to a recent article in the New York Times, innovators of mobile and “screen” technologies who are now parents have decided that the tech they had a hand in creating and furthering has no place in their children’s lives. These parents have done the research and have decided that the screen time dangers for kids far outweigh the benefits. One mom, Athena Chavarria, who worked at Facebook and now works for Mark Zuckerburg’s philanthropic charity, the Chan Zuckerburg Initiative, even goes so far to say, “I am convinced the devil lives in our phones.”
Screen time dangers are real
Chris Anderson, a former editor at Wired and now the Dad behind GeekDad.com, says screen time is akin to drugs for your kid.
“On the scale between candy and crack cocaine, it’s closer to crack cocaine,” he said of screen time dangers.
Anderson is a dad of five, and his family has some pretty serious rules about screens. Among these rules: no phones until the summer before high school, no screens in kids’ rooms, and no social media until they’re 13. The rules, he says, were born of necessity: “I didn’t know what we were doing to their brains until I started to observe the symptoms and the consequences.”
Anderson is far from alone. The New York Times article says, tellingly:
Tim Cook, the C.E.O. of Apple, said earlier this year that he would not let his nephew join social networks. Bill Gates banned cellphones until his children were teenagers, and Melinda Gates wrote that she wished they had waited even longer. Steve Jobs would not let his young children near iPads.
Another techie couple, Kristin Stecher and Rushabh Doshi (she’s a former computing engineer and he’s a current Facebook engineer), say imposing screen time limits is so difficult, that banning screens completely has proved to be much easier when it comes to their three-and-five-year-old daughters.
“Doing no screen time is almost easier than doing a little,” says Ms. Stecher. If my kids do get it at all, they just want it more.” She and her husband have found it easier to only bring out screens on multi-hour car or plane rides. Other than that, their kids get no screen time at all except for a Friday night family movie. She told the NYT that they came to the decision as a couple after researching screen time dangers versus the benefits. To them, cutting out screen time was a no-brainer.
In my house, I’ll be honest, we do more screen time than I’m comfortable with, but I did hold off on a smart phone for my oldest until he was 14. Also, he is not allowed to have social media at all and NO ONE is allowed to use screens with a closed door. My youngest is allowed very limited video game time on weekends only, and can only use the iPad for learning games (he has apps for handwriting, reading comprehension, and math.)
But still…I’d be perfectly happy if we had no screen at all. It’s definitely a very thin, trembling tightrope between screen time benefits and screen time dangers, and it’s one that we are the first generation of parents having to figure out. However, the response of the parents of the tech community carries a lot of weight with me.
Have you decided that screen time dangers outweigh the benefits in your home? How do you keep a handle on it?