Melinda Gates does not presume to be a professional parenting expert. But she does have some thoughts to share based on her own personal experience as a mother who happens to be married to Microsoft’s founder. They are primarily reflections on her own parenting experience and what she might have done differently. Her over-riding concern is that parents should decide for themselves what works for their family, but adds that “I probably would have waited longer before putting a computer in my daughters’ pockets.”
“Phones and apps aren’t good or bad by themselves, but for adolescents who don’t yet have the emotional tools to navigate life’s complications and confusions, they can exacerbate the difficulties of growing up: learning to be kind, coping with feeling of exclusion, taking advantage of freedom while exercising self-control. It’s more important than ever to teach empathy from the very beginning, because our kids are going to need it.” One online resource that she mentions is Common Sense Media (commonsensemedia.org) which advises families on how media can best be adapted to support more shared life experiences. For example, “One of my favorite things you can do is plan a ‘device-free dinner.’ It’s not complicated. It’s exactly what it says: an hour around a table without anything that has an on or off switch . . . (with) the promise of an amazing conversation.”
Well, maybe they won’t all be “amazing conversations,” but at least we can increase the odds of having some. And Melinda Gates also believes that in learning to better listen and talk with each other, we may all develop a deeper sense of empathy for one another. I agree, and I don’t think you will find an “app” for that yet?