Is your gut telling you social media may be harming your kids? Turns out the people who invented the information age are alarmed too. They’re setting strict boundaries for their own families - and advising others to do the same.
It’s the kind of thing you hear at school drop-offs, at book-club and anywhere else parents congregate: “God only knows what social media is doing to our children’s brains.” But when a 38-year-old Facebook executive says exactly the same thing, it kicks the conversation into a whole new gear. In an interview with Axios last week, Facebook’s first president, Sean Parker, came right out and said it: Exploiting human vulnerability is the whole point of social media. And there is no more vulnerable group than our children. “The inventors, creators - it’s me, it’s Mark [Zuckerberg], it’s Kevin Systrom on Instagram, it’s all of these people - understood this consciously. And we did it anyway.”
Their guiding principle? “How do we consume as much of your time and conscious attention as possible?’ That means we need to sort of give you a little dopamine hit every once in awhile, because someone liked or commented on a photo or a post.”
Microsoft mogul and dad-of-three Bill Gates and wife Melinda set plenty of firm rules around screen time for their kids Phoebe, Rory and Jennifer, now aged 15, 18 and 21. No cell phones at the table, ever. A screen “sunset” time, after which all devices are unplugged, to help everyone get to bed at a reasonable time.
And absolutely no smartphone before the age of 14. Did the Gates kids beg for phones earlier? Did they assure their multi-billionaire parents that “everyone else has one”? You bet they did. Yes, Gates told British newspaper The Mirror, “We didn’t give our kids cell phones until they were 14, and they complained that other kids got them earlier.”
The Gates’ aren’t the only insanely wealthy tech entrepreneurs who have sought to protect their kids from the digital world they helped to create. At the time of the iPad’s first release, a New York Times reporter remarked to Apple co-founder Steve Jobs “Your kids must love it!” His reply? “They haven’t used it. We limit how much technology our kids use at home.”
3D Robotics CEO and dad of five Chris Anderson is on board with that. “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,” he cheerfully admits. “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.”
And just this past August, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and wife Priscilla Chan wrote in a letter to their newborn child:
“Childhood is magical. You only get to be a child once.” You might say that’s Family Zone’s mission in a nutshell: to keep childhood magical. Use Family Zone to create a customised set of filters to protect your family in a way that’s nuanced and age-appropriate. Because Mark Zuckerberg is right: You only get to be a child once.