Here’s a fun and somewhat alarming test: Go to a restaurant with kids who can make eye contact, order for themselves, and say please and thank you, and witness the gushing compliments you’ll get from astounded waiters and waitresses. These basic skills should not be considered an amazing and unusual feat, but today, they certainly seem to be.
There’s a reason Bill Gates banned screens for his family at dinner time. Apple guru Steve Jobs also ran a low-tech home. “Every evening Steve made a point of having dinner at the big long table in their kitchen,” biographer Walter Isaacson reported, “discussing books and history and a variety of things. No one ever pulled out an iPad or computer.”
Nick Bilton, who covered the topic for the New York Times, noted a similar trend: “I’ve met a number of technology chief executives and venture capitalists who say similar things: they strictly limit their children’s screen time, often banning all gadgets on school nights, and allocating ascetic time limits on weekends,” he wrote. “These tech CEOs seem to know something we don’t.”
But if we’re honest, maybe this isn’t just about knowledge, is it? Here’s a fact: Pulling off a civilized dinner with a three-year-old — no screen, no headphones, no movie-as-a-muffler; just you and your child and whatever wits you have left about you — can be hard work. Everyone knows that. It’s the reason why so many exhausted parents outsource the job to a screen.
But then, good parenting is often hard.