The Techpreneurs of Silicon Valley are Keeping their Families Away from Technology. Should You Too? Growing dependence on apps and social media affects physical, mental and emotional health

By Komal Nathani

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Melinda Gates' children did not have smartphones until they turned 14 and only used computer in the kitchen. Her husband Bill spends hours in his office reading books. Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg says he wants his daughters to read Dr. Seuss and play outside rather than use Messenger Kids. Even Steve Jobs strictly limited his children's use of technology at home.

More than half the world is hooked on gadgets for the sake of convenience, but the leaders of top companies are trying to keep their families away from technology as much as possible. Why?

British political journalist Alice Thomson argues in an article in The Times, about the repercussion of children using social media and the resistance of families of tech entrepreneurs towards technology using examples of Gates, Zuckerberg and Jobs. "The more money you can make out of the tech industry, the more you appear to shield your family from its effects," she writes.

Mind Matters

Schools and universities across the world are adopting high-end, sophisticated ways of teaching, including learning apps and edu-tech. Though the idea behind employing these techniques is to improve the education experience, it's affecting their mental hygiene. A September 2015 report by Organization for Economic and Co-operation Development, which is headquartered in France, says that schools are yet to take the advantage of technology in the right way.

It highlights that even countries which have invested heavily in information and communication technologies for education have seen "no noticeable improvement" in their performances in reading, mathematics or science.

The research report by New York-based organization, Child Mind Institute says that using social networking sites such as Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat may have more negative effects for children and teenagers than positive ones.

"Kids who use technology not for educational reasons but for recreational reasons, they're not as good at calming themselves down," says Catherine Steiner, in her book The Big Disconnect: Protecting Childhood and Family Relationships in the Digital Age, published in 2013.

"Playing a game on a device instead of in real life can have developmental consequences," adds Steiner, who is also a clinical psychologist.

The most sought-after private school in Silicon Valley, the Waldorf School of Peninsula had banned electronic devices for under 11-year-olds in 2011. It rather teaches the children of eBay, Apple, Uber and Google staff to make go-karts, knit and cook. After certain reports of smartphones affecting mental hygiene, the school changed pedagogies for students' learning.

Why can't we Copy Techpreneurs?

Of course, children are not the only ones affected by the omnipresence of technology.

A March research of this year conducted by the University of Zurich in Switzerland, published in Nature Partner Journal shows that staring at mobile screens could make both brains and fingers more jittery. The scientists Myriam Balerna and Arko Ghosh in the report say that it slows down our thinking process, and the addiction can lead to depression as well.

Another study, also published in March Australia's Deakin University says smartphone addiction has been the root cause that affects the productivity and well-being of the individual both physically and emotionally.

Now the question is how to strike a balance. In a 2017 Ted Talk on "Why Screens Make Us Less Happy", Adam Alter, an author and a psychologist says, "The way we use technology is a lot like driving down a really fast, long road. Whenever my dinner time starts, my phone goes far away from the table. We humans are bad at resisting temptation, but these quick ways can help us resist technology as much as possible."

Komal Nathani

Former Correspondent, Entrepreneur Asia Pacific

A firm believer of hard work and patience. Love to cover stories that hold a potential to change the momentum of business world. Currently, a part of all-women web team of Entrepreneur’s Asia Pacific edition to jig the wheel of business journalism!

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