If you're worried about how much time your kids spend on their cell phone, iPad or video game, you're not alone — and many Silicon Valley leaders agree you should be concerned.
In a recent interview with The Guardian, YouTube's CEO Susan Wojcicki says that even she and her husband, Google executive Dennis Troper, limit their kids' interaction with technology.
"I have times when I take away all my kids' phones, especially if we're on a family vacation, because I want people to interact with each other," she says. "So, I take away their phones and say: 'We're all going to focus on being present today.'"
Wojcicki emphasizes that she wants her kids to have a healthy relationship with devices as well as a firm understanding of when they need to take a break. "It comes back to balance," she says. "People need to learn when it is a time [to be] focused in the conversation, and when it is OK to go and watch videos or do other activities on the internet."
The tech executive, who is a mom of five, says that her kids didn't receive cell phones until they were "in a position when they were on their own, taking a bus or going places."
"There are moments when it becomes important for them to have a phone," she says. "I think middle school [from about the age of 11] is a reasonable point to start educating them about it, but also a lot of times you can take it away."
In addition to Wojcicki, other business leaders have opened up about how they manage their kid's screen time. Bill Gates revealed in an interview with the Mirror that he and wife Melinda Gates didn't allow their children to have cell phones until they were teens.
"We don't have cell phones at the table when we are having a meal, we didn't give our kids cell phones until they were 14 and they complained other kids got them earlier," he said.
In an interview on The Thrive Global Podcast, entrepreneur Mark Cuban revealed that he strictly monitors how much time his kids spend on their devices. This includes having his teenage daughter, Alexis, turn in her phone at 10 p.m. on weekdays and 11 p.m. on the weekend, unless she has a friend over. But even then, he says, he will still find a way to monitor her screen time.
"I have installed Cisco routers ... I have management software," he says. "So it says what apps they're using so I can shut off their phone activity. I'm sneaky as can be. And she hates it. That's the downside of having a geeky dad, you know. I can figure all this stuff out."
Cuban says that he even went as far as paying his son not to watch Minecraft videos.
"I'm not going to lie, I paid my son $150 to not watch those videos for two months," he said. "But he could earn [screen time] if he watched math videos, or did math problems for me. He could earn time to watch Minecraft videos."
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, today's children spend an average of seven hours a day engaging with entertainment media. This includes televisions, computers, phones and other electronic devices. As a result, kids who spend seven or more hours a day interacting with technology are twice as likely to be diagnosed with anxiety or depression compared to kids whose screen time is limited to just one hour a day.
"Just like you talk to your kids about what you do when you go out on the street," says Wojcicki, "you need to have a conversation with them about safety on the internet, and also find a way to manage screen time and balance that with other activities."
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