Why Tim Cook, Bill Gates want to limit their children’s use of tech gadgets
It was quite a surprise to read that Apple CEO Tim Cook said he would not let a child use social media. I had to reread that headline. Why would the head of the world’s largest IT company say such a thing?
He didn’t elaborate, but simply said that he does not believe in overusing technology, and that if he had a child, he would not want him/her on it.
Cook added that he has a nephew who’s given limits in using social media. I wish he expounded on the boundaries he had set.
Cook is actually not alone in his view. Apple cofounder and former CEO Steve Jobs, in a 2010 interview a year before his death, also famously admitted that his children did not have the then newly released iPad. Asked by a reporter about his children’s reaction to the release, Jobs replied that, aside from his children not having it, he also “limits how much technology kids use at home.”
Last year, Bill Gates said that he had limited his child’s screen time upon discovery that his daughter was spending too much time on a video game. He added that his children did not get their own mobile phones until they were 14 years old. (The current average in the US is 10.) His youngest is now 15.
Another interesting detail is the student population at Waldorf Silicon Valley.
Waldorf Schools, famous for a holistic approach to education, do not incorporate computer technology in the curriculum until the early teen years when children are expected to have mastered the fundamental human interaction, creativity and learning from books and experiments.
Despite, or perhaps because of this, Matt Richtel of the New York Times wrote in 2011 that “three quarters of the students have parents with a strong high tech connection,” giving the impression that these parents, as well as Gates, Jobs and Cook, seemed to know something about their products and technology that consumers are not aware of.
‘Growing Up Wired’
A book, “Growing Up Wired–Raising Pinoy Kids in the Digital Age” (2013) by Queena Lee-Chua, PhD, Ma.
Isabel Sison-Dionisio, MA, Nerica Fernandez and Michele Alignal, MA, paints a clear picture of the effects of technology on children of all ages. The authors are experts in their respective fields—education, psychology and writing—whom I have had the pleasure of listening to in their informative talks.
I first read the book two years ago, and it remains relevant especially in the light of Cook’s latest remarks.
The book contains extensive research Filipino children and students that the authors have compiled over the years.
Let me share some of the reasons, based on the studies written about in the book, why it makes sense limit children’s screen time and social media access.
Contrary to the notion that allowing children to use technology as early as possible is an advantage, results of the studies reveal the opposite.
Alan Eagle, a top Google executive, was quoted: “I fundamentally reject the notion you need technology aids in grammar school… The idea that an app can better teach my kids to read or do arithmetic… is ridiculous.”
On kids’ early mastery of gadgets, Eagle said that learning to use one was “brain-dead easy.”
It is said that children’s early years should be used for the development of basic skills—from motor movements to honing one’s imagination and creativity, the ability to think logically, to interact and engage with other people in a healthy and positive manner, and to distinguish between reality and fantasy.
These skills take years to develop and master and need to be practiced in real life, rather than on a screen.
These are the same skills that will help children think out of the box in the future—and give them the idea to creatively deal with the demands and problems of their time, and, perhaps, create the next Apple.
This is not to say that technology has no place in learning and education. The book points out that local high schools, such as Xavier, Ateneo and Miriam have found ways to make meaningful use of technology in education.
Used properly, moderately. and under the right guidance, technology serves as a tool to help children learn and discover a bigger world.
The authors point out that these schools proceed with caution to strike a balance between the students’ screen time and the correct use of technology.
The authors also remind us that there is a right time and age to use technology, as prescribed by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). The AAP believes children from infancy to 2 years old do not need screen time and discourages the use of gadgets at that age.
AAP recommends that preschoolers and primary-school-age children be given a maximum of one hour of supervised screen time a day, while tweens and, if possible, even teens, are discouraged from having more than two hours of screen time a day.
In the book, the educators impart valuable insights on the development of children’s brains and how they could be affected negatively when overexposed to images on a screen. Because of the overuse of gadgets, they suffer from lack of natural stimulation which play and physical activities can give.
The book gives a detailed explanation on which parts of the brain are developed, or left undeveloped, and its effects on children’s attention span and ability to have self-control.
The possible physical effects range from temporary, minor bodily problems to death in extreme cases.
There are also psychological effects. The young can suffer from personality traits. They get bored easily, are prone to instant gratification or violence, and self-absorption.
Upon closer inspection, these are, in fact, tell-tale signs of being too “wired” at too early an age.
Counselors recount encounters with children and families—both positive and negative—to serve as guide on how readers should raise their own children.
While it’s impossible to give a simple summary of a complex and constantly evolving subject such as technology, and whether it should be used by children, it’s safe to say that, based on this book, experts are in sync with the decision of Cook and others to keep their children unplugged in their early developing years.
However, it is not just technology that Cook spoke of.
Social media, defined as “websites and applications that enable users to create and share content or to participate in social networking,” is another subject.
Next week, we’ll discuss how to learn to control social media before it controls children.
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