I want to write to Bill Gates. This has nothing to do with Microsoft.
Recently, Gates was in Ottawa, Canada¹. As Reuters reports, He was asked about his children and their use of computers.
Gates said he and his wife Melinda decided to set a limit of 45 minutes a day of total screen time for games and an hour a day on weekends, plus what time she needs for homework.
“Up to some age, to be determined, it’s very appropriate for a parent to get a sense of what they’re seeing out there and be able to have conversations about it,” he said.
“My son said, ‘Am I going to have limits like this my whole life?’, and I said, ‘No, when you move away you can set your own screen limits’,” Gates recounted, to audience laughter.”
Bill Gates, you’re so silly. Sure, you’re the richest man in the world, but controlling your children… C’mon Bill, no one’s got that much pull!
I am told, when Steffie was very small, I claimed I’d never say “no” to her. I’d find a way to discuss and explain. I don’t remember saying that, though I don’t deny it.
What was I smoking?
You see Bill, the problem is we teach them to speak. We teach them to reason. They hear us dispute others in our conversations. Somehow, they feel they should have a free mind and free will.
I know, it sounded awfully heavy handed to me too. Why should a 9 or 13 or 19 year old child have any input when I make a decision? And yet, over time, they wear you out. They push and push and push some more until, finally, you are powerless to stop them.
Bill, it’s going to be tougher in your situation, because you’re surrounded by an army of sycophants who only know yes. They will be outweighed by your children who will only know “no.” Unfortunately, Children can’t be fired or outsourced to Bangalore.
Here’s my biggest revelation as a parent. You can’t teach experience! Your child will have to do everything you know is wrong or foolish or against their own best interests, just the way you did. From time-to-time, you will just have to sit back and watch them screw up.
I know you’re still a little naive. I’ve heard you talk about the incredible stability and security of the Windows platform. Fixing children is much more difficult. And this time, you’ve got to do it in “version 1.0”.
¹ – When I first visited Ottawa in the late 70s, my friend Howard drove by the US Embassy and said, “That’s where the landlord lives.”