You might think that growing up as the child of a Silicon Valley CEO would be paradise. After all, they have more money than some countries’ gross national products, access to some of the most influential and famous people in the world, and oh yeah, all those shiny cool gadgets.
As it turns out, when your dad invents the tablet computer or owns the operating system to most of the computers on the entire planet, that doesn’t mean you’re getting your hands on a hot new gadget anytime soon.
A new report has found that Gates and other big names in Silicon Valley have very strict rules for their kids concerning things like owning a cellphone, using a social media account, and having unlimited access to the internet. HINT: they don’t get to have those things.
Instead, Bill and Melinda Gates’ rule was that their kids couldn’t have a cellphone until age fourteen; they also set strict limits on the hours per day of allowed screen time, including no devices at dinner or within a set amount of time before bed. According to another report, Steve Jobs’ kids weren’t even allowed to have an iPad when it came out.
Others have already asked the question, “If that’s the case, what do these technology top dogs know that the rest of us don’t?” The answer is quite simple: NOTHING.
As parents, these executives understand that unfettered access to anything—whether it’s social media, screen time, or gummy bears—isn’t in a child’s best interests. More importantly, they’re setting the example that it is ultimately the parents’ job to stay on top of their kids’ digital lives and connected activity, while still affording them the use of innovative and helpful technology.
Third-party companies have brought additional safety and monitoring features to devices like smartphones, tablets, and laptop computers, but those can come with their pitfalls. If parents are convinced that these safety nets are going to catch every threat, then they’re not only mistaken, they’re setting their kids up for potential hazards.
Instead, it’s better to adopt some family rules concerning the use of technology:
1. Screen time limits
It’s not just the studies on how screens affect developing brains. Setting limits on mobile devices or technology also teach kids moderation, something that can result in healthy habits in other areas of their lives.
2. Explain the threat
Ongoing discussions with your kids at different stages of their development are important for keeping them safe, not just in their digital lives but in their everyday lives, too. You wouldn’t try to explain all the ramifications of drug addiction or drunk driving to your toddler, and you wouldn’t try to explain identity theft, online predators, or cyberbullying to them, either. Keep your safety talks relevant and age-appropriate, and keep the doors of communication open.
3. Stay up-to-date yourself
You can’t very well help your kids navigate their connected lives if you don’t know the latest innovations yourself. This includes learning about the coolest new apps, the latest social media site “everyone” at school is using, and more. From there, it’s important to talk about how these innovations work, what possible threats they pose, and establishing family rules for using them…or not.