Panic in the Valley: Parents, nannies and iPhone vigilantes

Some might call it hypocrisy.

From New Job for Nannies: Screen Police in Sunday’s New York Times. 

From Cupertino to San Francisco, a growing consensus has emerged that screen time is bad for kids. It follows that these parents are now asking nannies to keep phones, tablets, computers and TVs off and hidden at all times. Some are even producing no-phone contracts, which guarantee zero unauthorized screen exposure, for their nannies to sign.

The fear of screens has reached the level of panic in Silicon Valley. Vigilantes now post photos to parenting message boards of possible nannies using cellphones near children. Which is to say, the very people building these glowing hyper-stimulating portals have become increasingly terrified of them.

My take: Tricky issue. Apple spends billions per year marketing devices that it has come to believe are harmful to children. Some might call that hypocrisy. iOS now has parental controls, of course, but judging by how much time we all spend bent over our smartphones, that train may have left the station.


  1. John Kirk said:

    I subscribe to a twitter feed called “Pessimist’s Archive.” Turns out that everything is bad for kids. The Pessimist’s Archive’s latest podcasts is on the dangers of…

    …wait for it…

    …Novels (at the turn of the last century)!

    Turns out naysays used to think that novels caused crime and brain damage. Sound familiar? It should. It happens every time something new is introduced into society. The musical “Music Man” had an entire song which (mockingly) pointed out the dire dangers of playing pool as opposed to playing the wholesome game of billiards.

    This will never end. So long as there are new things, there will be people saying that those new things are a danger to society and a corruptor of youth.

    October 28, 2018
  2. Gregg Thurman said:

    My lady friend and I have parted ways. I got tired of her litany of what IS and ISN’T good for you. I’m going to be 72 next month and don’t give a shit about that any more (if I ever did).

    Nearly all of today’s good/bad myths had a reasonable birth. It’s just that over time we have forgotten the original reason for the myth, and from there the myth takes on a bastardized life of its own, with no basis in fact.

    People that spread these myths lead hollow lives. Spreading bull crap as fact gives them meaning and a sense of personal value they otherwise don’t have.

    October 28, 2018
  3. Gregg Thurman said:

    Children’s brains are like black holes sucking in everything around them. They have a voracious appetite for knowledge and seek it wherever it is.

    If we spend a lot of time in front of a screen it is because what’s on the screen is more interesting than what/who is around us.

    The solution to excessive screen time is to make who/what is around more interesting (general broadcast TV not being one of them).

    I’ll wager that if you dropped today’s cellular technology into any society in our past that population would react just as we are. The human mind craves input.

    October 28, 2018
  4. Ken Cheng said:

    This piece made me wonder where the Screentime data is located, so I looked under Health, then Activity, then found it in Prefs.Thought it might fit under mental health or something.

    October 28, 2018
  5. Robert Paul Leitao said:

    I’m old enough to remember decades ago when “experts” and “professionals” admonished parents to limit TV time for kids with the same dire warnings we hear about smartphones and tablets today.

    As a person who spent his youngest years in the 1960s, I probably watched too much TV as a kid. But I’m old enough to remember watching Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. interviewed on TV. I remember seeing on TV the assassination of RFK soon after it happened. I watched in awe, along with countless millions of others, Neil Armstrong’s first steps on the moon. I also remember hearing on TV the daily casualty reports from the Vietnam conflict and watching the frontline video footage. It was the first war brought into American living rooms and I remember the social tumult that created.

    In the 40s my now aged mother would sit around the radio in silence with her family for any news, any news at all, as to the fate of her older brother who enlisted in the US Navy at 17 and was on a warship somewhere in the Pacific during WWII. In the late 40s she might have been cautioned by her parents not to spend so much time at the movie theater where teens at the time often spent their Saturdays and the weeknight the movies changed.

    For my older sister it was the magic of Disney at the theater and programs like Davy Crockett and the original Mickey Mouse Club on TV at home. I watched Captain Kangaroo as a child. For my younger brother the shows were Mister Rogers and Sesame Street.

    Over the decades human nature hasn’t been altered. It’s the communication mediums that have changed. It’s not the mediums that matter (theaters, radio, TVs. computers, tablets or smartphones). It’s the messages we deliver that make a difference to children.

    No. I wouldn’t give a tablet to a 2 year-old as an emotional pacifier or a digital babysitter. But I might sit with a grandchild as early as 4 years-of-age and assist them on an iPad in the beginning steps of learning how to code.

    My own kids had their own computers from an early age but reading (or being read to) was the nightly routine. By the time they were in their early teens each had an iPhone. Of all the issues I encountered raising four kids, none of the issues related to the misuse of technology.

    As a former technology program director and classroom instructor my view is biased. But the critical thinking skills young students need today and to eventually compete in a global economy have changed over the past few decades. Why compel students to carry around a backpack that when filled is the same weight as the child when a tablet can be the doorway to a world of learning and understanding?

    If I needed to employ a nanny to care for kids otherwise in my care, I wouldn’t ban today’s technologies anymore than I’d ban the use of indoor plumbing or electricity when I was away from home.

    I don’t know if it’s hypocrisy. But I do know it’s a source of satire. I’m sure many of the same parents that were referenced in the article use today’s technologies to remotely monitor and enforce their no technology policies when away from home.

    October 28, 2018

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