HiTechParentsGuest Post by Brenda Barron

Year after year, we watch as media consumption rises — in our homes, our professional workspaces, and even while we’re out and about. According to Nielsen’s Total Audience Report from the first quarter of 2016, our consumption of media has increased by a whole hour since the same time period in 2015.

The reason for this is obvious. With greater technology adoption comes more avenues through which we have access to media.

It’s not surprising then that the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) compiled a thorough analysis this October on the effects of media on children. In addition, they included a revision to their recommended usage guidelines along with the report.

In sum, the AAP expects parents, educators, and physicians to work with children in maintaining a “healthy media diet” based on the following breakdown:

  • 18 months and younger: no screen time except video-chatting.
  • 18 to 24 months: parents should guide children through their interactions with high-quality media programming.
  • 2 to 5 years: parents should allow up to an hour each day of supervised high-quality media viewing.
  • 6 years and older: parents should establish limits on media consumption each day, including when, where, and how much.

The AAP’s recommended healthy media diet isn’t groundbreaking news. As children become exposed to more media and have greater access to technology, this question “Should there be limitations?” comes up frequently. What’s interesting to note, however, is the correlation between what the AAP now recommends with what the tech elite already do with their own children.

High-Tech Parents and Their Low-Tech Kids

New technologies present parents with unique challenges. Smartphones and tablets have become an easy babysitter for many stressed out parents. But that’s not usually the best thing for the children. Here we will look at how the world’s leading tech execs — people whose lives revolve around these gadgets — deal with these problems.

Tech and Today’s American Children

  • Even very young children are using technology
    • Children use the internet daily
      • 25% of children by age 3
      • 50% of children by age 5
    • 27% of digital media is screen-based for children age 8 and under
    • 30% of apps on parents’ devices are due to their children downloading them
  • Very early online presence
    • 33% of US children have an online presence before birth
      • Ultrasound images
    • 92% of US children have an online presence by age 2
      • Photos uploaded by parents
      • Full online profile
  • A large part of the digital world is geared toward children
    • 72% of children have a computer accessible at home
    • 22% of children ages 6-9 own a cell phone
    • 61% of digital users are between ages 3-11
  • It’s not just computers
    • 67% of children have a video gaming system
    • 42% of children have a TV in their bedrooms

How the Tech Elite Do It

  • Bill Gates
    • Co-founder and former CEO of Microsoft
      • “None of these new technologies come without some real issues that have to be thought through.”
      • Supervises kids’ Facebook accounts
      • Limited his young children’s screen time
        • 45 minutes daily during the week
        • 1 hour daily on weekends
        • Not including homework time
  • Chris Anderson
    • Former editor of Wired and CEO of 3D Robotics
      • Time limits for using devices
      • Sets parental controls on devices
  • Dick Costolo
    • CEO of Twitter
      • No time constraints on devices
      • Children must use devices in the living room for supervision
  • Ali Partovi
    • Founder of iLike and advisor for Facebook, Zappos, and Dropbox
      • Makes distinction between “consuming” and “creating”
        • Watching videos is very different from creating them
      • No time limits set for creative tech use
  • Steve Jobs
    • Co-founder and former CEO of Apple
      • Kids didn’t use the iPad
      • Family focused on real-world activities
        • Cooking
        • Face-to-face conversation
    • Family ate dinner together
      • No tech at the table
      • Talk of books, history, and other topics
  • Waldorf School of the Peninsula
    • Serves students in Silicon Valley
      • One of 160 Waldorf schools nationwide
      • Children of execs from Apple, Google, Yahoo, eBay, and Hewlett-Packard
      • ¾ of students are connected to high-tech parents
    • Bans screens from use in classrooms
      • Frowns on tech use at home
    • Uses pen and paper, knitting, and mud to teach lessons instead of electronics
    • Focuses on physical, creative tasks rather than technological competency
    • Alan Eagle, a Google exec, has a 5th grader at Waldorf who doesn’t know how to use Google

Tech Limit Guidelines for Kids

Every parent needs to decide what works for their children, here are some options:

  • There are two things that unite all these techie parents:
    • Setting tech usage boundaries
    • Supervising tech use
  • Usage Boundaries
    • Setting tech usage limits is important
      • This is similar to limiting television watching
    • Common reasonings for tech boundaries
      • Promotes
        • Hands-on creativity in areas outside of tech
        • Interpersonal interaction
        • Expressive movement
      • Limits protect children from dangers of tech
        • Harmful online content
          • Pornography
          • Violence
          • Bullying
        • Addiction to devices
        • Cognitive and physical issues
          • Interacting with devices near bedtime can cause:
            • Poor sleep
              • Interacting with digital screens ignite hormones in the brain that keep people from sleeping
            • Poor mental functioning
            • Lower overall health
  • Supervision
    • Another thing that unites most tech elites is their supervision of tech usage — both by the parents themselves and via software
    • Direct parental supervision
      • A family computer in a common room in the house where others can see the screen at all times
        • Devices only allowed to be used when and where parents are present
        • Living room or dining room, for example
        • No devices in the bedroom
        • Monitoring software
        • Software is available to help parents track their children’s activity online, even if they are not able to be present all the time

Though high tech is marketed as a boon for the world, the tech elites who create it also have a good understanding of its dangers. It might be convenient to hand an iPad to a squirming toddler. But it is usually better to follow the lead of these tech elites and manage the situation in a more old fashioned way. Sources: parenting.com, edudemic.com, techaddiction.ca, nytimes.com, breitbart.com, thewire.com, reuters.com, webmd.com, mashable.com