Executives–do you let your kids use computers?

by | Mar/30/2011

As a fairly new dad, I wonder how executives choose to handle all of the IT devices available—do you allow your kids to have them too?

Do you ever tell your kids, “When I was young, pocket calculators with 15 keys were the latest gadgets?”

Will our kids tell theirs, “When I was young, all we had were iPads and Blackberries?”

It is hard to imagine where technology will be in ten or fifteen years from now.

I’m happy I used calculators, and loved my TI-59C covered with buttons, but I feel reluctant to allow my kids to spend hours and hours using iPads.

As a teen, I learned the resistor color code, designed schematics, etched PC boards, and built fascinating gizmos using integrated circuit chips like the 555 timer. This technology may never be needed again!

Do you allow your kids to use computers and other electronic devices? If so, what limits do you set? Do you monitor their use?

Please post your comments on this blog.


  1. Sheila Prieschl

    I load different learning apps on my iPhone & iPad for my kids. My daughter literally learned to spell on it! Although they have fun games on them, I do not allow any violence on any of our electronic devices. If they want to get on the computer they have to do a “keyboarding” lesson (typing for our generation). I had an iPhone break & they wanted to take it apart to see how it worked. They had a great time & learned all kinds of things… the stuff I could never have taught them.

    They have many friends that have games with violence. I allow them to play them when they are there. I’ve explained that if I see any changes in behavior they won’t be allowed in the future.

    It’s always a balancing act. I’ve found that every parent and every child is different. You have to find what is fun but beneficial. I pick my battles when it comes to electronics. I’ve made electroic devices my “friend” in helping my kids learn & grow.

    • Mike Foster

      Thank you Sheila – I really like what you’ve accomplished and how you seek that balance. Your example is very helpful. I especially like how you handle the “violence” and put the responsibility on your children to maintain their own good behavior rather than allowing them to become “victims.”

      As an aside, just this week, my wife had to change the passcode on her ipad because, after watching over her shoulder, our three year old learned to unlock the ipad. No more entering the passcode with him watching!

      Your post got me thinking – does anyone remember the merlin game? In 1980, I thought it was the coolest thing around – along with the Radio Shack handheld blackjack game that looked like a calculator game. Now, my kids would never even play with either. Too boring for them.

  2. Wayne Sneed

    When it comes to technology and my kids, the first thing we did was to limit the technology time to roughly the same amount of time spent reading books. An hour in a non-violent adventure novel, then you get an hour on the computer playing non-violent games.

    The second thing we did was to cancel our cable service, our satellite service, and took down the antenna. The ONLY option for television viewing is movies that we purchased and carefully screen. Our kids balked at first, but now actually enjoy spending long hours outside on bikes and in the yard dreaming up their own adventures.

    Technology is a power tool. Either you control it, or it will control you. There is no middle ground. Recommend reading “Flickering Pixels” by Shane Hipps. He’s a former marketing guru with BMW (i think) and has some incredible insight into what is being done to us without our knowledge.

    • Mike Foster

      Wayne, I agree about the cable, satellite and antenna. I took that out too until my wife blew up.

      One time, after coming home and finding my step son had been in front of the boob tube for hours – on a beautiful summer day – I picked up the flat screen TV (the only TV in the house – purchased to appease my wife) and started carrying it outside to the trash bin. My 9 year old, screaming and crying, standing on the porch, with the termination of a defensive line in overtime at the Super Bowl, was trying to block me from delivering the TV to its doom. He literally broke out in hives. There were splotches all over his face and arms that looked like yellow jacket stings. My wife saw the hives too and I took the TV back into the house rather than have my kid be scarred for life for having “quit cold turkey” from TV.

      Thankfully, our two toddlers are happy watching the same few cartoons over and over. My wife has had the same ten or fifteen shows for almost a year and – for whatever reason – the kids stare at the TV like it is the first time they’ve ever seen such an amazing movie – and they do that every time! Everyone has to admit that’s a little weird, and the good news is that the toddlers don’t know yet.

      I’ve met families that have no TV in their home, and I don’t know if that is good or bad. I’m definitely drawing the line at just one TV at our home – although I will still care for and admire my friends just as much no matter how many TV’s they own. Then, somewhat hypocritically, I have three monitors on my main computer and several other laptops set up almost 100% of the time too. I’m immersed in MS Office, virtualization applications, web meetings, security related applications, etc. most of the time. And, in all candor, there are those evenings when I download a movie for my wife and I to snuggle up and watch together after the kids are all fast asleep.

      I admire how you maintain control over what your family watches.

  3. Roger Hintzsche

    As an IT guy and a father of three boys, it was a chore to keep up with monitoring their activities online. No computers in the bedrooms, only in common areas where we can walk by. Now that they’re older (17, 22, 24) I believe that the discipline of monitoring them early has paid off. They seem to be good citizens of the internet community.
    Mike, you got me laughing about your teen activities– I was doing the exact same things including building a discrete-component shortwave radio, some Heathkit kits, etc! Back then you could diagnose a problem down to a single component and replace it, instead of swapping out a compete circuitboard nowadays. On the other hand, who would have thought how much functionality can now be crammed into a square millimeter of silicon, of all things!?!? Some fun memories…

    • Mike Foster

      Roger – It is reassuring to know that the strategies you described have paid off so much now that two of your children are though their teens and the youngest close behind.

      Additionally, thank you for reminding me to about Heathkit! When I got to college I was amazed at how many EE majors had never even held a soldering iron in their hands before! As a message to you:
      dah dah dit
      dah dah dah
      dah dah dah
      dah di dit

      dit dah dah dah
      dah dah dah
      dah di di dit

      I hear that Morse code isn’t even required for ham licenses anymore – and I guess that makes sense unless books like Patriots – A Novel of Survival in the Coming Collapse come true.

      I wonder when our kids are older, what will change so much that the younger generation won’t remember the old technology? Maybe slate computers, such as the iPad, will go the way of cassette tapes we used to use for storage on our home computers. I feel old when we go to museums and the technology we grew up with is now considered antique.

      I feel a responsibility to my kids to teach them to use their minds and imaginations rather than need the constant adrenaline like audiences get while watching the movies Die Hard and the newer Mission Impossible among others.

  4. Linnie Rumple

    First there were laptops, then there were netbooks, and now there are “ultrabooks.” These mobile devices share several characteristics including the integrated folding design and portability. Differences include size and storage (laptops use hard disks, netbooks rely more heavily on the cloud, and ultrabooks use Flash memory). Despite their similarities and differences, future computer trends point to a lesser reliance on keyboards which could potentially render this category obsolete.


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