Unless you’ve been living under a rock, it should be no surprise to hear that too much screen time can be damaging for kids.
What might be a little surprising though, is that some of the parents who are going to the biggest extremes to protect their children from screen exposure are the very people working in the industry that develops the technology.
A new article in the New York Times made waves this week after highlighting the paranoia many Silicon Valley parents are experiencing when it comes to their children being exposed to screens. Parents are so concerned about their kids catching a glimpse of a phone or tablet that they’re asking their nannies to sign “no-phone use contracts” that strictly forbid them from using a screen of any kind in front of their young charges.
“The people who are closest to tech are the most strict about it at home,” Lynn Perkins, C.E.O. of UrbanSitter, told the Times. “We see that trend with our nannies very clearly.”
In a world where screen avoidance is becoming increasingly difficult, nannies are encouraged to find other ways to keep the kids entertained.
“Usually a day consists of me being allowed to take them to the park, introduce them to card games. Board games are huge,” San Jose-based nanny Jordin Altmann told the Times. “Almost every parent I work for is very strong about the child not having any technical experience at all. In the last two years, it’s become a very big deal.”
These parents aren’t alone. Some of the biggest names in tech have adopted strict regulations when it comes to screen use in their own homes.
Bill Gates may have founded Microsoft, but he and his wife Melinda don’t allow their children to use screens before bed, enforce good tech use over excess, ban phones at meals and make their children wait until they are 14 to get a phone.
Steve Jobs was the brains behind Apple – the first trillion-dollar company – but famously told the New York Times in 2010 that his children hadn’t ever used the newly-launched iPad. “We limit how much technology our kids use at home,” he said.
Mark Zuckerberg pioneered social media, but wrote a letter to his young daughter in which he encouraged her to read Dr. Suess and play outside.
But this growing effort to keep kids away from screens has a dark side. The Times reported a new trend that involves “phone spies” scoping out parks and playgrounds and snapping pictures of nannies who are using their phones or not paying close enough attention. They’ll post the photos to private parenting social networks with the caption,”Is this your nanny?”
“The nanny spotters, the nanny spies. They’re self-appointed, but at least every day there’s a post in one of the forums,” Perkins said. “What I’ll see is, ‘Did anyone have a daughter with a red bow in Dolores Park? Your nanny was on her phone not paying attention,’” Ms. Perkins said.
For many nannies, this practice crosses a line. Anita Castro has been a nanny for 12 years, and told the Times she was deeply disturbed to see posts like these popping up on social media pages. It feels like an invasion of privacy.
“I use the forums to find jobs, but now just reading the titles: ‘I saw your nanny…’” she said. “Who are these people? Are they the neighbors? Are they friends?”
How do you feel about “no-phone contracts” and “nanny spotting?” Are these methods justified? Or do they cross a line? We want to hear from you. Sound off in the comment section below.