It’s normal now for kids to watch an iPad all through dinner, look at their phones in the car, and spend every moment in school staring at a computer. There’s a lot of debate on how bad that is for them—but even investors in Apple have some concerns, according to an open letter from JANA Partners LLC and the California State Teachers’ Retirement System in January of 2018. The letter demanded that research-backed studies be implemented to see the effects of constant screen time on child development.
Live Science reports that there have been a few studies, ones that indicate that constant screen time is linked to chemicals in the brain that are similar to those present in people with anxiety and depression, that constant use of the Internet may cause grey matter shrinkage and other horrible things that anyone who spends a lot of time on Instagram can probably relate to. I know I always feel worse after even just fifteen minutes of looking at my phone. And yet…I can’t stop.
Katharine Birbalsingh is a headmistress in the U.K. who tweeted a blurb from The Times that has blown up because it indicates that the people at the top of the tech pyramid do know how dangerous their product is:
I say this to parents at school. The fat tech cats make their billions off you giving your children the latest tech gadget while they fill their houses with books. pic.twitter.com/LlEowX9dYP
— Katharine Birbalsingh (@Miss_Snuffy) August 26, 2018
Birbalsingh writes that she tells parents all the time that tech moguls give their kids books while marketing their products to other people’s children. The blurb she shared reads:
“Melinda Fate’s children don’t have smartphones and only use a computer in teh kitchen. Her husband Bill spends hours in his office reading books while everyone else is refreshing their homepage. The most sought-after private school in Silicon Valley, the Waldorf School of the Peninsula, bans electronic devices for the under-11s and teaches the children of eBay, Apple, Uber and Google staff to make go-karts, knit and cook. Mark Zuckerberg wants his daughters to read Dr Seuss and play outside rather than use Messenger Kids. Steve Jobs strictly limited his children’s use of technology at home. It’s astonishing if you think about it: the more money you make out of the tech industry, the more you appear to shield your family from its effects.”
Alice Thomson in The Times
The tweet has been met with some pushback from people who say that technology is often a force for good in education and the Waldorf school is pretty freaking weird anyway:
No books for Waldorf School (Steiner) children until age 7, when 2nd teeth appear, for spiritualist reasons. https://t.co/RB89EXx3oW
— Susan Godsland (@SusanGodsland) August 26, 2018
This is misleading. I have family in Silicon Valley. Their kids also go to Stanford for code camps … along with many others. They have iPads and 3D glasses. Setting limits is responsible parenting. Lets just be honest.
— Honey Bunny (@HillYes1) August 27, 2018
But others confirmed with their own anecdotal evidence that no one in the business of making distracting tech will let their kids be distracted by it:
Had a bookstore in Marin County. A woman came in with her kids and we engaged in conversation. Her husband worked as a video game designer. They did not let their kids play the video games he designed and stressed reading instead…
— Carlos Castillo (@CMCContent) August 27, 2018
It’s something that every parent has to decide for themselves, but both Bill Gates and Steve Jobs are supposed to be geniuses. If they’re smart enough to keep their children away from smartphones, maybe we should be, too?