Minni Shahi and Vijay Koduri are waiting as long as possible to give cellphones to their 10- and 12-year-old children. Cautious of technology’s effect on their developing minds, the couple has banned gaming systems from their home, capped the kids’ use of their parents’ phones at 10 minutes a week, and stashed their five-year-old iPad on a high linen shelf. They explained to Business Insiderthat while their kids share a computer for completing homework, other devices are off-limits. But you can’t call them technophobic luddites. Shahi works at Apple Headquarters, and her husband is a former Googler founding an internet startup.
Low-tech parenting is not new in Silicon Valley. Since the internet revolution, tech tycoons have been wary of the effect of their products on children, more so than many of their eager customers. Steve Jobs, Tim Cook, and Bill Gates have all admitted to curbing kids’ access to devises. Jobs, Apple’s late CEO, would not allow his children to use iPads. The company’s current CEO, Cook, forbad his nephew from joining social media networks. And Microsoft Founder Gate didn’t give his kids phones until they were 14.
These aren’t the concerns of eccentric CEOs, they’re concerns shared throughout the valley. A survey conducted last year found that Silicon Valley parents widely share their doubts. “My daughter is always on the phone, not with her friends. When I try to take the phone away there are problems,” one responded admitted. “I’m really concerned about how technology affects other skills. I see my friend’s kid who can use the tablet better than his mom at age 4 but still cannot hold a pencil,” said another.
mbg’s 2018 Wellness Trends report forecasted a shift away from tech, as research is backing up our suspicion that our embrace of technology has turned into an addition. We’re newly aware of our vulnerability to the enticing interfaces designed by powerful companies to capture our attention, and we’re eager to understand the effects of digital dependency on developing minds. Research confirms that the young are inordinately susceptible to changes in brain chemistry that have been linked to an increase in teenage depression and suicides.
If the first step to healing is recognizing the problem, then as a society we’re on the path to creating solutions to the dangers of tech addition. In the meantime, keep the iPad in the closet.