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High-Tech Execs Are Often 'Low-Tech Parents'

This October, it will be three years since the brilliant, next-level innovator Steve Jobs passed away. It is still hard to believe then that the man who always regaled us every year with his impressive new product unveilings and his "think different" speeches could really be gone.

But last week came some small, yet shocking claims of another kind, from a New York Times piece written by Nick Bilton: Steve Jobs was apparently a "low-tech parent." Yes, that Steve Jobs. The one who built the first Apple computer alongside Steve Wozniak in his garage at just 21 years old; the one who personally ensured that personal computers became a part of our everyday life; the one who saw new possibilities for the way we listen to music; and last but not least, the one who made us all officially obsessed with our phones when he unveiled the first iPhone.

That Steve Jobs apparently had limits when it came to his own kids' involvement with technology. As Bilton now recalls, it was during a 2010 interview with the inventor that the truth came pouring out.

"So, your kids must love the iPad?" Bilton remembers asking Jobs. The new tablet had, after all, just hit stores. "They haven’t used it," he told a shocked Bilton. "We limit how much technology our kids use at home," Jobs explained.

"I’m sure I responded with a gasp and dumbfounded silence," Bilton wrote in the article. "I had imagined the Jobs’s household was like a nerd’s paradise: that the walls were giant touch screens, the dining table was made from tiles of iPads and that iPods were handed out to guests like chocolates on a pillow."

Apparently, not so.

But in the wake of Bilton's interview with Jobs, he's uncovered that this "low-tech" parenting style is not uncommon among other high-powered tech execs and venture capitalists. Despite living and breathing technology day and night, these moms and dads will go pretty far to restrict the power it has over their kids.

“My kids accuse me and my wife of being fascists and overly concerned about tech, and they say that none of their friends have the same rules,” says former Wired editor Chris Andersen and now chief executive of drone maker 3D Robotics. "That’s because we have seen the dangers of technology firsthand. I’ve seen it in myself, I don’t want to see that happen to my kids."

Bilton chatted with countless other parents in the same boat, who say they restrict screen time during the week, often employ time limits on apps and sometimes forbid the use of social networks.

Others aren't as concerned with time limits as they are with what their kids are actually doing while they're glued to a screen.

“Just as I wouldn’t dream of limiting how much time a kid can spend with her paintbrushes, or playing her piano, or writing, I think it’s absurd to limit her time spent creating computer art, editing video, or computer programming," said Ali Partovi, founder of iLike and current adviser to major tech companies like Facebook and Dropbox.

Considering the fact that one-third of kids under 2 are using smartphones these days, and that the average teen spends about 6.5 hours a day behind a screen, perhaps these parents are on to something.

Bilton writes that he later reached out to Walter Isaacson, author of the authorized biography "Steve Jobs" and frequent visitor to the Jobs's family home.

"Every evening Steve made a point of having dinner at the big long table in their kitchen, discussing books and history and a variety of things,” Isaacson tells Bilton. “No one ever pulled out an iPad or computer. The kids did not seem addicted at all to devices."

Hmmm ... kind of sounds like the way things used to be, when we were kids.

Are you a low-tech parent?

Photo via Getty Images; Steve Jobs photo via SuccessStory.com

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