Lion of the Blogosphere

Rich people in Silicon Valley prohibit their children from looking at screens

Must read series of articles in the NY Times.

You know, 20 years ago, when people were claiming that poor kids are “disadvantaged” because they didn’t have access to technology, I said it was a bunch of hogwash.

And now, today, we find out that rich people are going crazy trying to prevent their children from using anything with a screen: smartphone, television, computer, absolutely forbidden.

According to the the article about nannies, nannies sign contracts that they will never use their smartphone or any other screen in front of their charges, and parents spy on each others’ nannies to get them fired.

I had no idea that rich people were doing this. Is it just rich people in Silicon Valley, or is it all over the country?

* * *

Let me add some more thoughts.

“Screens” can potentially be a good thing of children are using them for purposes like learning computer programming, reading and writing. Even social media has its plus sides, you hear about kids who become millionaires from being famous on YouTube or Instagram.

There are some young people (all women) who are now successful, or semi-successful authors because they started posting stuff to Wattpad when they were in middle school.

The teenager who programs an app that makes a lot of money, that wouldn’t happen if he had parents who forbid him from using “screens.”

On the other hand, I have to admit that I don’t see any upside at all to playing Fortnite 40 hours a week. And I’m sure that the vast majority of kids are using their screens for crap purposes like that.

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

October 29, 2018 at 7:26 AM

Posted in Education, Technology

24 Responses

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  1. My family was friends with the family of a TV repairman (back when it was a job that was worth doing) and he only allowed his children one hour of TV a day between all of his four children combined, so they had to decide what show/s they wanted to watch together. His reasoning was too much TV would turn them into fat unsatisfied idiots; he was a very smart man.

    Shelia Delphin

    October 29, 2018 at 7:45 AM

    • My uncle who grew up evangelical, converted to Catholicism, and tried to raise his kids to be countercultural conservative Catholics, only to utterly fail and have exactly zero out of his four kids embrace conservative Catholicism as adults, didn’t even have a TV in the house (and still doesn’t.) Guess he thought preventing that pop culture influence would do the trick. So much for that. I guess one could concede that they’re not fat, nor can they literally be described as idiots, but only one of them has or is on track to have what would be considered a real job.


      October 29, 2018 at 11:46 AM

      • He rejected his upbringing and raised kids who rejected theirs. Maybe it’s in the genes?


        October 29, 2018 at 1:12 PM

      • True, I actually have thought about that. But if so, that would only further strengthen my point that various measures to avoid modern liberal life, like not having a TV, accomplish nothing. Environment doesn’t matter; it’s all innate. How depressing.


        October 29, 2018 at 3:54 PM

      • I had a friend whose mother was a Christian not who forbid him from watching TV when he was young because of it’s secular influences.

        He wound up ODing on drugs.

        Lion of the Blogosphere

        October 29, 2018 at 4:28 PM

  2. Were any of the people interviewed actual engineers? It seems to me they had auxiliary jobs for Liberal Arts majors, or else were executives.


    October 29, 2018 at 8:27 AM

    • I don’t picture the engineers having nannies, or even being married.

      Lion of the Blogosphere

      October 29, 2018 at 8:30 AM

      • Are you serious? My son goes to state U and the joke on campus is that all the girls want to marry the engineers. In fact, I don’t think I even know any unmarried engineers. Engineers have like zero fear of commitment.

        not too late

        October 29, 2018 at 8:25 PM

  3. The children in these articles are quite young. For school aged children it’s well nigh impossible to block screen access because it’s required for academic work. My kids start submitting homework via google docs by grade 4, my high schoolers have to upload math homework via a phone- there is just no escape (unless you are amish/ ultra orthodox etc or attend a specialized school that eschews technology).

    Our rules have been… no personal phones until high school. No social media of any kind, ever (a couple of my daughters snuck accounts, but they follow friends and don’t post). No recreational screen time until homework is done.

    I’ve mentioned this before but amazon has a service called freetime. Content is screened by age and you can set limits to each medium. Ie unlimited books but only 1 hour of apps and so on. It’s cheap, $4-6 a month depending on how many child profiles you need. I highly recommend this service for anyone with young children and a fear of letting them loose on screens.


    October 29, 2018 at 9:23 AM

    • Or you could move to Europe. Schools here are still tech-lite. My kids write everything by hand, do their math homework in workbooks, pretty much the same way we were doing 30 years ago. They even have to learn Latin starting in 7th grade (if you’re university track). Seems to me Austrian kids are still just fine as far as tech literacy is concerned but I also don’t see that Austrian kids read more books, have longer attention spans or are necessarily more advanced academically. They probably wreck their brains after school the same way American kids do. In math, physics, and chemistry Austrians tend to be ahead of the US, but they were ahead in math and physics 30 years ago as well. The truth may well be that most learning skills are simply innate.

      Peter Akuleyev

      October 30, 2018 at 10:43 AM

  4. If you read the whole article, you find that the real problem is nannies and babysitters using screens, not kids.

    I can tell you that nannies watching screens is a real problem. You can hire one to watch your kids, and she spends most of her time texting her friends on her cell phone.

    It is also a problem that babysitters use TV and other devices to pacify the kids.

    I am not against kids looking at screens, but if I hire a nanny or babysitter, then I want her to do her job and not spend her time or the kids time on electronic devices.


    October 29, 2018 at 9:40 AM

    • Normal people don’t hire a nanny, if you are rich enough to hire a nanny you are rich enough to let your wife stay at home and take care of the kids. Babysitter should be a temporary thing when the parents want to go out at night and here texting habits should not matter.


      October 29, 2018 at 7:52 PM

      • A wise woman doesnt get a 200k degree with debt to become a stay at home mom in a society with a 50% risk of divorce.

        Bruno Brazil

        October 30, 2018 at 9:49 AM

      • Women do whatever all the other women in their social class are doing, regardless of whether an alien sociologist from outer space would think that it’s wise.

        Lion of the Blogosphere

        October 30, 2018 at 10:20 AM

    • I think a small expensive daycare is way better than nannies. Nannies generally are very low class. They are not the spinster daughters of professors like Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s sisters. Even though day care workers may not be high class either, they are supervised, especially at the expensive day cares. Also, some churches and synagogues have very nice congregation members who work there. Some of them have young children and really care about the kids because they are the children of their fellow congregation members. I have known some very nice young women who worked there as well as some very nice older ladies. They were middle class people of good character. There is almost no screen time there. Only the very end of the day from like 5:30 to 6:00 when there are hardly and kids still there anyway.

      not too late

      October 29, 2018 at 8:45 PM

  5. On all those downsides: I’m pretty sure you’ll be at basically no handicap if you start learning to program in high school instead of grade school or middle school. There was that study that suggested kids who don’t learn any math until middle school catch up in 6 months. Programming is more cognitively intensive than arithmetic, so I think you could catch up even faster.

    And I’d rather my kid not be a YouTube or Instagram star if I can help it.

    Still, the key point here is that these people all have nannies. Regular people rely on screens to help parent their children because it’s a valuable distraction and the kids still seem to come out mostly normal. Probably better to focus on moderation instead of abstinence.


    October 29, 2018 at 10:10 AM

  6. I have a hard time believing that 30-something parents in SV or other blue havens are making their kids read books, magazines or newspapers, when the parents themselves didn’t do so as teens or college students. Or is it that the kids are allowed to use screens ONLY for academics?


    October 29, 2018 at 11:43 AM

  7. It’s not just rich people in silicon valley. My daughter (small town Canada) was like this with her kids. I had tablets and phones with educational games and I had to sneak around to let the kids use them. I pretty much taught my granddaughter to read with phonics games on a tablet.


    October 29, 2018 at 12:27 PM

  8. Both me and my wife are fang eng and we have a young child as do many of our friends. Yes, engineers are married and have children, and we don’t have a nanny but we do send our child to $2.5k/mo daycare. This article is an accurate depiction of engineering families, too, not just “liberal arts execs.” For me personally, here I am reading blogs at work on my phone (personal phone disconnected from work WiFi of course), but I don’t allow my child to use iPad because I want him to be better than I am. In our house, it’s grandma (who is a semi literate immigrant) who allows our child to use electronics when I’m not around, never me or my wife.

    Fang eng

    October 29, 2018 at 1:57 PM

    • You cannot beat regression to the mean.

      My 2c

      October 29, 2018 at 9:56 PM

  9. [I don’t see any upside at all to playing Fortnite 40 hours a week.]

    My 13 year old, whom we had reason to believe was mentally disabled, learned to read by playing endless hours of minecraft (she eventually could read the inventory). Computers can sometimes get through to children when normal venues fail. I don’t know why this is but I’ve witnessed it firsthand more than once. She’s still an oddball but to this day reads beautifully and is managing in school.


    October 29, 2018 at 6:22 PM

  10. I have decided not to give a shit about screens, let them use as much as they want as long as they do whatever other things they have to do. I don’t see any bad impact and it doesn’t even affect all my kids in the same way, one doesn’t read at all, the other reads a lot, one do a lot of physical sport in an organised manner, the other hang out for days outside doing unorganised type of sports with friends, their school achievements are also different based on their personal skills and yes, sometimes they spend the whole day at home on screens, watching stuff and playing games. It seems to me like it doesn’t matter at all, genetics play a big role anyways and who cares what they spend their time on as long as they do what they need to do. We tried all this banning before, i didn’t see any difference and it was just a waste of everybody time.


    October 29, 2018 at 8:01 PM

  11. It is crazy people that do this, crazy rich and crazy poor. Fortunately, children are intelligent enough. They will find a way around. They will swap food between each other. They will swap sex for what they need. So, be careful not to go overboard with your prohibitions.

    My 2c

    October 29, 2018 at 10:03 PM

  12. In this discussion between Carl Mitcham and Ivan Illich, even car windshields are included as screens that “flatten” the world to two dimensions and “always make you be where you’re not yet.”:


    October 30, 2018 at 10:00 AM

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