The companies they've led, and the products those companies have unleashed on the world, have had an incalculable effect on society.
So these facts seem a little ironic on their face:
- Steve Jobs didn't let his kids use an iPad.
- Bill Gates didn't allow his children to have a smart phone until they were 14.
- Sundar Pichai set up a system that requires "activation energy" for his kids to watch TV.
Three of the biggest names in tech were that concerned about limiting even their older kids' exposure to ubiquitous tech products -- some of which they themselves brought to the market?
And when you dig in a little bit more, you realize that it's not ironic at all.
There's a very good reason why tech industry insiders are more likely to be cautious when it comes to their kids and tech, even themselves and tech.
They understand the deleterious effects that too much tech can have on both growing and "developed" brains. When comparisons are made to the tobacco and sugar industries, you know you're treading in choppy waters.
And on that note about "developed" brains, we'd all probably be wise to disabuse ourselves of the notion that our brains are ever fully developed given the compelling science around neuroplasticity.
We understand intuitively that kids' brains are constantly growing and evolving. Yet it's so easy for us to fall into the trap of thinking that our own brains are finished products once we reach some arbitrary age (18? 21? 25?).
The reality is that our brains are constantly evolving and changing based on inputs and experiences, which is why we need to be vigilant about what we put in front of our eyes and ears.
Is there a useful and healthy place for technology to fit in? Absolutely.
- It's downright miraculous that I could tweet a line from this essay right now and anyone with a smart phone anywhere in the world could see it almost instantly.
- It's similarly miraculous that to find sources for this article, I just had to search a few keywords and multitudes of options were available in seconds.
- Heck, it's a miracle that I can be sitting here at 10:24 p.m. typing this on a Thursday night, knowing that thousands of people from across the globe will read it on Friday morning.
So the purpose of this essay is not to disparage technology.
Heck, here at THINKERS we sell a premium notebook, but we really consider ourselves to be a technology company thanks to the THINKERS App.
We believe that technology can, should, and will play an essential role in unlocking the fullest extent of human flourishing moving forward.
But only in moderation.
Our app is a piece of technology that can help you record ideas, catalog ideas, recall ideas, mix-and-match, share ideas, and overall do more with ideas ... but it's not going to improve the quality of ideas.
You know what will do that? Being intentional about getting away from technology so that you have time to think, ruminate, and let your subconscious mind work its magic.
How do you think Steve Jobs came up with his great ideas for Apple? It sure as heck wasn't by staring into an iPhone. The same goes for noted pen-and-paper user Gates.
And this is why they limited their kids' use of technology, and why they limited their own use of technology.
We can consume the world's knowledge online, and we can communicate online, but when it comes to doing our best thinking, we need to go offline. The best thinkers, communicators, and leaders will strike a smart balance between the two on a regular basis.
So let this essay serve as an impetus for you to do a quick technology check.
Are you using technology or is technology using you?
How have your habits been lately? Are you staring into a phone more than you're staring into a book or putting pen to paper?
And if you have kids, what is their technology use like? Are your habits setting a good example for them? Are your rules and standards helping them develop good habits of their own?
The three links below will give you more insight into how to strike a healthy balance between the time you spend with technology and the time you spend without it.
Our world is only going to get more connected and device-driven. Don't feel bad if you've fallen into any bad habits. Just take this opportunity to turn the wheel so you start heading in a more intentional, healthy direction.
How to strive for "digital flourishing."
"Assessing your digital wellness is not just a matter of adding up screen time; rather, it’s a holistic assessment that takes into consideration numerous factors. These include feelings of angst around constant connectivity, digital overwhelm, and computer-induced aches and pains, as well as positive emotions and experiences we might have around technology, like savoring pleasant experiences, connecting with others, and a sense of self-efficacy.
Think of digital wellness as a spectrum, ranging from excessive technology use to complete unplugging."
Read: How Technology Can Be Part of a Happy Life (Greater Good Magazine)
Be intentional about how your kids use technology.
"Be picky about the types of tech-based media your child interacts with. Choose shows that teach them about the world around them in a way that is kind, hopeful and encouraging; not bratty, sarcastic, fast, or frightening. Pick any media exposure as carefully as you would pick a babysitter to leave alone with your baby. Common Sense Media is an excellent resource in this regard"
Read: Five Ways to Help Your Child Develop a Healthy Relationship with Technology—and You (Medium)
Be more present in the moment.
"Dr. Strohman says that we can prevent anxious feelings over smartphone use by creating boundaries that are non-negotiable for ourselves. Healthy phone boundaries might include not using it during a meal, when you’re in a social situation, before bedtime, or in the bathroom. It might also mean creating set time limits for how long you spend on your phone or a particular app."
Read: The Hidden Stressors of Technology You Should Be Aware Of (Very Well Mind)
Quote of the week
"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”
-- Arthur C. Clarke