"You're always looking at how it can be used in a great way — homework and staying in touch with friends — and also where it has gotten to excess," Gates told the Mirror in April 2017.
Each of Gates' three kids — ages 15, 18, and 21 — has grown up in a home that forbade cell phones until age 14, banned cell-phone use at the dinner table, and set limits on how close to bedtime kids could use their phones.
Gates told the Mirror his kids routinely complained that other kids were getting phones much earlier, but the pleas did nothing to change the policy. In a separate interview with Matt Lauer, then at the Today Show, Gates said he doesn't go as far as keeping the passwords to his kids' Facebook accounts, but that online safety is "a very tricky issue for parents now."
Smartphone overuse — or "addiction," according to some psychology experts — is becoming a growing concern for parents, academics, and even workers in Silicon Valley. Gates has some company in his old-school approaches to smartphone regulation: Steve Jobs, the famed Apple CEO and inventor of the iPad in 2011, didn't let his kids use the product at home.
"We limit how much technology our kids use at home," Jobs told New York Times reporter Nick Bilton shortly after the iPad's release.
According to educators Joe Clement and Matt Miles, coauthors of the recent book "Screen Schooled: Two Veteran Teachers Expose How Technology Overuse is Making Our Kids Dumber," it should be telling that people like Gates set strict rules on tech use.
"What is it these wealthy tech executives know about their own products that their consumers don't?" the authors wrote.
The answer, according to a growing body of evidence, is the addictive power of digital technology. In the past several months, a slew of Silicon Valley executives have denounced the all-consuming power of Apple, Facebook, Google, and Twitter in capturing users' attention through their products and platforms.
"It literally changes your relationship with society, with each other," Napster founder and former Facebook president Sean Parker told Axios in November. "It probably interferes with productivity in weird ways."
The most recent sign people are turning against the Silicon Valley giants: Two of Apple's largest shareholders, who collectively hold a $2 billion stake in the company, wrote an open letterexpressing concern for what Apple products are doing to kids' brains.
"We have reviewed the evidence," wrote the shareholders, Jana Partners LLC and the California State Teachers' Retirement System, "and we believe there is a clear need for Apple to offer parents more choices and tools to help them ensure that young consumers are using your products in an optimal manner."