The people who gave us the ubiquitous tech of smartphones, tablets, and screens everywhere with the internet on them are now mortally afraid that data will be the drug of choice for Generation Z, and they're banning their own creations at dinner tables, schools, and living rooms to the point where an army of nannies are now employed to give these kids a 100% no-tech childhood.
Silicon Valley parents are increasingly obsessed with keeping their children away from screens. Even a little screen time can be so deeply addictive, some parents believe, that it’s best if a child neither touches nor sees any of these glittering rectangles. These particular parents, after all, deeply understand their allure.
But it’s very hard for a working adult in the 21st century to live at home without looking at a phone. And so, as with many aspirations and ideals, it’s easier to hire someone to do this.
Enter the Silicon Valley nanny, who each day returns to the time before screens.
“Usually a day consists of me being allowed to take them to the park, introduce them to card games,” said Jordin Altmann, 24, a nanny in San Jose, of her charges. “Board games are huge.”
“Almost every parent I work for is very strong about the child not having any technical experience at all,” Ms. Altmann said. “In the last two years, it’s become a very big deal.”
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. And it has put their nannies in a strange position.
“In the last year everything has changed,” said Shannon Zimmerman, a nanny in San Jose who works for families that ban screen time. “Parents are now much more aware of the tech they’re giving their kids. Now it’s like, ‘Oh no, reel it back, reel it back.’ Now the parents will say ‘No screen time at all.’”
Ms. Zimmerman likes these new rules, which she said harken back to a time when kids behaved better and knew how to play outside.
Parents, though, find the rules harder to follow themselves, Ms. Zimmerman said.
“Most parents come home, and they’re still glued to their phones, and they’re not listening to a word these kids are saying,” Ms. Zimmerman said. “Now I’m the nanny ripping out the cords from the PlayStations.”
I actually understand. Tech has made the parents miserable, the 24-hour, 7-day leash from work is something I've been though and I wouldn't wish that level of anxiety on a kid, well, ever. But the problem is these are the people that create the tech and get paid to make it as ubiquitous and widely available as possible.
They're telling their kids that no, you can't use this. It'll ruin your life. We're actually hiring somebody to enforce this rule.
What does that say about the rest of us?