A generation raised on the delights of Donkey Kong, Super Mario, Sonic the Hedgehog, and Game Boy Tetris has now grown up. We have iPhones that wake us in the morning, Kindles that put us to sleep, and Facebook news feeds that annoy and entice us during the day. Many of us also have children. These children see us on our screens, want to play with these screens, and eventually ask to have their own screens. The discussion about how much screen time a child should be allowed is central to modern parenting. It’s the inescapable question.
The fervor and complications behind this issue were brought into relief by two recent news stories. The first was a report in the Times, by Nick Bilton, about how, in 2010, Steve Jobs was a “low-tech parent” who did not let his children have access to Apple’s new gadget, the iPad. Bilton quotes Walter Isaacson, who describes how Jobs instead “made a point of having dinner at the big long table in their kitchen, discussing books and history and a variety of things.” Then, on Monday, Microsoft paid $2.5 billion for Minecraft, the hugely popular game in which players build, explore, and destroy Lego-like virtual worlds. When the Microsoft chief executive Satya Nadella was asked why his company bought Minecraft, he replied, “If you think about it, it’s the one game parents want their kids to play.”