You don’t have to own a billion-dollar tech company for your kids to ask for a phone. Even a smartphone that has seen better days is enough to have them reach for it. But can you imagine being a kid and having your father be one of the most famous tech gurus on the planet?
Bill Gates is famous for being the founder of one of the world’s largest software firms, Microsoft. This is the firm that has turned him into one of the richest people in the world. This guy loves technology, but he still realized the importance of keeping kids away from too much screen time.
In an interview with the Mirror, Gates explained how he banned his kids from having mobile phones before the age of 14. Gates has three children — Jennifer, 20, Rory, 17, and Phoebe, 14. “We often set a time after which there is no screen time and in their case that helps them get to sleep at a reasonable hour. “You’re always looking at how [technology] can be used in a great way – homework and staying in touch with friends – and also where it has gotten to excess."
Gates dropped out of Harvard to found Microsoft with Paul Allen in 1975 and transformed personal computing. Even so, after setting up the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in 2000, Gates gave billions of dollars to charity. He is a man who has inspired other tech billionaires, such as Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, to share in their wealth.
Gates quit Microsoft in 2014 to dedicate his time to the foundation. He travels to the poorest countries in the world and works to come up with solutions to problems these countries are facing. Gates is especially passionate about vaccines and how they are helping to keep people, and especially children, alive.
Gates’ approach may seem harsh for some, especially when there seems to be so much peer pressure from kids, and even some adults, for our kids to get their own gadgets. And yet, Gates’ approach could be the right one. It is the approach that could give our kids more time to be kids and more time away from an online world that is fueled with the bad as much as the good.
Stats from the 2016 “Kids & Tech: The Evolution of Today’s Digital Natives”reporthave shown that the average age of a child getting a smartphone is now at 10.3 years. “I think that age is going to trend even younger,” Stacy DeBroff, chief executive of Influence Central, told The New York Times. This is “because parents are getting tired of handing their smartphones to their kids.”
Chief executive of Common Sense Media, James P. Steyer, a nonprofit organization that reviews content and products for families, is also taking Gates’ approach. Steyer told the Times how his children get a cellphone when they start high school. Moreover, they only earn the phone when they have proven that they can restrain themselves.
Gates has used the age of 14 as a mark for his kids to get a smartphone. Still, there is no one age for when all children are ready for a smartphone. Steyer explained how, “No two kids are the same, and there’s no magic number… A kid’s age is not as important as his or her own responsibility or maturity level.”
Before buying your kid a smartphone, there are questions to ask yourself to figure out if your kid is ready for a phone. Questions such as, how independent is your kid? Are you buying your kid a phone so you can keep in touch or because you are being pressured by other parents and seeing your kid being pressured by his peers?
What are the reasons your kid wants to own a cellphone? Have you talked to your kid about the dangers of sharing private information online and other dangers such as sexting? Sexting can start as young as six years old.
More than issuing the dangers, your kid must understand that a cellphone is not a right but something that is earned. The cellphone is also something that can be taken away if rules are broken. Drafting a smartphone contract for your kid is one way to keep your kid responsible and following the rules.
A smartphone contract is perfect because it is a daily reminder to your kid that if any rules written down are broken, the phone will be taken away. Some of the things you can write down include not texting during class or driving, as well as not sending out inappropriate media and not meeting people your kid met online in real life.
Your kid should never go through bullying but he or she should never bully someone either. Your kid must be taught how to behave online. They should know that bullying others is never right and that if someone is being bullied they should tell an adult or report it to the social medium.
Gates has done so much for technology and how we live, and he has earned billions, but he has never lost sight of what is important. “Having money doesn’t give you all the answers,” he told the Mirror. What is important for him is spending more time with his wife and kids. It’s natural that our kids are going to want a smartphone, especially if they see everyone around them with their heads bent down looking at the screen, but wouldn’t it be wiser if we taught our kids that while technology is amazing, there is nothing better than human connection?