How Do Tech Professionals Handle Their Own Kids’ Screen Time?

by Anna Hughes on March 7, 2018
It's one thing to have an abstract conversation about whether or not kids should spend their time on screens. It's quite another when somebody who designs those screens has an opinion about it. So what do tech industry veterans do when it comes to kids and screens? And should you follow their leads?
Three children looking at a tablet

Should kids have technology?

Who’s Using Who?

Surprisingly, for many techies, it’s not really about the sheer amount of time. That is a concern, mind you; quite a few of them either limit screen time altogether or outright ban it for kids under a certain age. But a bigger concern for them is the psychological factor.

While whether or not screens have permanent effects on young brains or any brains at all, is controversial, one thing that is true is that many apps, especially games and social media, are built on certain psychological principles. For example, if you’ve ever played a “free” game on your phone, you know that while it won’t outright demand you hand over some money to advance, it’ll do everything possible to get you to buy “boosters” and other power-ups, or put a clock on certain aspects of the game.

At their worst, these games have been compared to Skinner boxes, the famous experiment where a psychologist determined that the chance of a reward, rather than the guarantee of one, could manipulate animals into constantly hammering a button. But even apps built with the best of intentions can appeal to our worst instincts. Social media is a good example: Seeing new notifications and comments stimulate our reward centers, and some of us will want more.

This is far more complicated than monkey-see, monkey-do. Some people react this way, some don’t. But it’s a question of risk and knowing yourself, which means, for the tech industry, restraint.

Three children looking at tablets and laughing

Technology isn’t bad, but it needs to be handed out in small doses.

What Tech Entrepreneurs Do

When they come home to their families, by and large, members of the tech industry limit how much time their kids have on screens. The younger kids are, the less screen time they get, and that includes passive use like watching cartoons. They also keep an eye on how kids use tech and make a point of getting familiar with the apps and games kids want to play and how they work. If they think an app is abusive, a conduit to bullying, or has some other problem that they’re concerned about, they tend to delete it.

They also tend to use tools like device locks, timers, and parental control apps to ensure kids don’t “cheat” when it comes to using phones and tablets, and they regularly check device activity to ensure their limits aren’t being gone around. In some cases, they password-protect the devices and kids have to come to them in order to unlock the device or lock them up when they’re not home.

The key takeaway, though, is that they’re involved, whether or not they use parental control apps. They know what their kids are using, they know when they’re using them, and they use the right tools to stay on top of what their kids are doing. That, more than anything else, is the marker of good parenting with devices. Need help keeping on top of what your kids are doing? sign up for Screen Time.

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How Do Tech Professionals Handle Their Own Kids' Screen Time?
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How Do Tech Professionals Handle Their Own Kids' Screen Time?

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