Parenting Tips True story: Steve Jobs Was a Low-Tech Parent.

Published on September 14th, 2014 | by Bright Kids Books


True story: Steve Jobs Was a Low-Tech Parent

Apple founder Steve Jobs limited the time his kids spent on gadgets at home. Could it be true that Steve Jobs was a low-tech parent?

A recent article in The New York Times has cast fresh, and surprising, insight into the parenting philosophies of one of the most tech-savvy people who’s ever lived.

During some downtime in an interview with Steve Jobs, journalist Nick Bilton asked, “So, your kids must love the iPad?”

“They haven’t used it,” replied Jobs. “We limit how much technology our kids use at home.”

Walter Isaacson, his biographer (who spent a lot of time at the Jobs family home), confirmed the low-tech parent assertion. “Every evening, Steve made a point of having dinner at the big, long table in their kitchen, discussing books and history and a variety of things,” he said. “No one ever pulled out an iPad or computer. The kids did not seem addicted at all to devices.”

And Steve Jobs was not alone in limiting the time his kids have access to electronic devices.

Alex Constantinople, the chief executive of the OutCast Agency, a tech-focused communications and marketing firm, said her youngest son, who is 5, is never allowed to use gadgets during the week, and her older children, 10-13, are allowed only 30 minutes a day on school nights.

And Evan Williams, a founder of Blogger, Twitter and Medium, and his wife, Sara Williams, said that in lieu of iPads, their two young boys have hundreds of books (yes, physical ones) that they can pick up and read anytime.

Meanwhile, Chris Anderson, the former editor of Wired and now chief executive of 3D Robotics, and his wife have instituted time limits and parental controls on every device in his home. “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.”

So what dangers are Steve Jobs, Chris Anderson and these other tech savvy parents referring to?

In older children (8+) dangers include:
– bullying,
– obesity and sedentary related health issues,
– irregular sleep,
– impaired academic performance,
– behavioural problems and attention issues,
– exposure to harmful content like pornography,
– less play time and creativity,
– and perhaps worst of all, becoming addicted to their devices (*just like their parents).

For younger children, too much time in front of the screen can delay a child’s development or lead to serious damage into adulthood, according to new research on the impact of media and technology on the brain.

Lecturer at the Institute of Early Childhood at Macquarie University in Sydney, Kate Highfield, said some apps, games or shows could help a child’s development or keep them engaged in activities for longer.

But her research found 85 per cent of the apps purchased for their children were just ”drill and practice” games that asked children to repeat an action or remember simple facts. Such apps lead to lower-level neural development and often include excessive rewarding that can create unrealistic expectations in children.

So how much screen time is recommended?

Current US health guidelines suggest children under two years get no screen time at all, including television, and children under five years less than one hour a day. Surprisingly, even adults should have no more than two hours of screen-based entertainment every day.

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, this is what’s really happening:

- Kids under age 6 watch an average of about 2 hours of screen media a day, primarily TV and videos or DVDs.
– Kids and teens 8 to 18 years spend nearly 4 hours a day in front of a TV screen and almost 2 additional hours on the computer (outside of schoolwork) and playing video games.
– Counting all media outlets, 8-18 year-olds devote an average of 7 hours and 38 minutes to using entertainment media across a typical day.

What suggestions do you have to limit screen time (without constant fights)?

- No screens (including TV’s) in bedrooms. This is Rule #1 for a reason.
– Establish consistent unplugged times – breakfast and dinner for instance. Mealtime = Family time.
– Set limited viewing times (using the guidelines as, um, guidelines).
– Encourage other activities, especially creative play, reading and outside activities.
– Log Screen Time vs. Active Time and make sure Active Time is equal to or greater than Screen Time!
– Play with your kids and be involved in their lives. Actively engage and appreciate the time you’re spending together. Just remember, they won’t be kids forever!
– Be the parent – It is your job to encourage healthy behaviors and limit unhealthy ones. Sometimes this means making unpopular decisions.
– Don’t use screen time as a reward OR a punishment. Practices like this make Screen Time seem even more important to children.
– Understand TV ads & placements. Talk openly with your children about ads and their purposes.
– Model healthy use of gadgets and screens yourself. Truly, it’s good for you too!

We know that none of these suggestions could be considered easy. Most of them fall roughly between difficult and extremely difficult. However, if you nail one, the next one will flow from it. So if you and your family have already drifted into some bad habits in regards to Screen Time, focus on making a start. Digital Detox is difficult, but doing nothing is not an option. And like Steve Jobs, maybe we should all aim to be a low-tech parent.

If you’re struggling to find great books for your kids, check out this article;
The 15+1 best Kids Books for reluctant readers – age 9-12 >>

* A small disclaimer. Make sue you distinguish between time spent “consuming,” like watching YouTube, being on Social Media, watching TV or playing video games – and time spent “creating” on screens. Writing, blogging, creating computer art, editing video, writing songs, building websites or computer programming can be valuable and worthwhile creative pursuits for your kids.


About the Author

- thinking kids can change the world.

Back to Top ↑