Data Sheet—Why We Should Stop Haranguing Our Kids to Put Down Their Phones

Silicon Valley godmother Esther Wojcicki believes leaders are made, not born. Courtesy of Esther Wojcicki
Courtesy of Esther Wojcicki

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Let’s end the week with something uplifting, a story about a tremendous teacher, mom, and author who knows a thing or two about the tech industry.

I’m talking about the estimable Esther Wojcicki, a high school journalism teacher in Palo Alto, Calif., mother of the talented Wojcicki sisters—YouTube CEO Susan, pediatrics professor Janet, and 23andMe CEO Anne—and author of the new book How to Raise Successful People: Simple Lessons for Radical Results.

Wojcicki talked to Fortune’s Michal Lev-Ram in the current issue of the magazine. Her suggestions combine common sense with some old-school correctives to contemporary sensibilities. The business hook here is that Wojcicki, who figured out how to inspire and motivate three extraordinary offspring, thinks her life lessons apply to employers, as well. She thinks managers favor rule followers when they should be advancing risk takers. The always outspoken Wojcicki tells Lev-Ram we’re raising a “nation of sheep.” She also thinks employers need to learn the art of kindness. It seems simple, but it’s good to have her reminding us.

I paused and thought about one last Wojcicki suggestion: Stop haranguing kids to get off their phones. She thinks instead we need to teach media literacy and media education, in other words, “how to use your phone ethically, how to use technology for information.” Says Wojcicki: “The only thing we do now is confiscate kids’ phones, which is ridiculous. They don’t learn anything; they just learn that the phone is forbidden fruit.”


In my quick review Thursday of tech types on Fortune’s just-published list of World’s Greatest Leaders, I neglected a few, whose write-ups merit your review: Pony Ma, CEO of Tencent and overlord of behavior-changing WeChat; Satya Nadella, Microsoft’s CEO, who has shown backbone by balancing employee concerns and his company’s business imperatives; StitchFix CEO Katrina Lake; and Tristan Walker, founder of Code 2040.


Va-va-voom. Shares of Zoom Video Communications started trading on Thursday and boy did they–apologies in advance–zoom upwards. Sold at $36 in the initial public offering, the stock closed the day at $62, a mouth-watering 72% gain. CEO Eric Yuan was dumbfounded. “I have no idea why,” Yuan told Fortune. The debut of Pinterest was more restrained. Priced at $19, the stock finished the day at $24.40, a still-sweet 28% gain.

Va-va-splat. The A.I. boost for discovering new drugs hasn't been enough to support the use of IBM's Watson app, medical news site Stat reports. IBM will stop selling and developing Watson for Drug Discovery.

Virtual safety net. With an emphasis on saving money, the Department of Agriculture is testing letting food stamp recipients use their credits with online grocery sites. In a two-year pilot starting in New York, participants in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program can shop online for food items at Amazon, Walmart and ShopRite.

We interrupt this program to bring you this important message. After going the premium music route, Amazon is now introducing a free, ad-supported music streaming service. It's aimed at users of Amazon's Alexa devices, like Echo speakers, and doesn't allow users to pick specific songs or albums, just playlists and stations. Probably not coincidentally, Google announced a similar feature for its smart speaker line as an offshoot of YouTube Music.

Put it on my tab. The millennial-preferred payment service Venmo is talking to banks about partnering for a credit card. The PayPal unit is looking to expand its payments service deeper into the physical world.


A few longer reads that I came across this week that may be appealing for your weekend reading pleasure:

The Most Measured Person in Tech Is Running the Most Chaotic Place on the Internet (New York Times)
YouTube’s C.E.O. spends her days contemplating condoms and bestiality, talking advertisers off the ledge and managing a property the size of Netflix.

Spies, Lies, and Algorithms (Foreign Affairs)
From biotechnology and nanotechnology to quantum computing and artificial intelligence (AI), rapid technological change is giving U.S. adversaries new capabilities and eroding traditional U.S. intelligence advantages. The U.S. intelligence community must adapt to these shifts or risk failure as the nation’s first line of defense.

Selfie Deaths Are an Epidemic (Outside)
A recent report found that 259 people died between 2011 and 2017 while stepping in front of the camera in often dangerous destinations. Our writer went deep on the psychology of selfies to figure out what's behind our obsession with capturing extreme risk-taking.

Michelin Restaurants and Fabulous Wines: Inside the Secret Team Dinners That Have Built the Spurs' Dynasty (ESPN)
In summer 2013, before an NBA Finals loss to LeBron James and the Miami Heat, Gregg Popovich is asked about his coaching legacy. "What's my legacy?" he quips. "Food and wine. This is just a job." He's kidding–but he's not.


I own a 13-year-old car, a 20-year-old carbon bicycle and even my laptop is about to turn five. They're all classics, at least in my book. Too bad I wasn't asked to participate in a consumer attitude survey about upgrades done by Boston College professor Sokiente Dagogo-Jack and University of Washington Professor Mark Forehand. The two summarized their results in an article for the Harvard Business Review. Even with tech products that have many features, the decision to upgrade is all about the consumer's feelings of self-esteem and self-improvement. Here's one example:

Participants from an online panel were primed to think about how they have improved over the past ten years and then viewed information comparing the features of the iPhone 5 and the iPhone 6. Participants then rated how much the iPhone had improved, their willingness to pay to upgrade to the newest iPhone, their level of identification with Apple, and their perceived self-improvement. For people who strongly identified with Apple, the higher they rated their own self-improvement, the higher they rated the improvement in the iPhone, and the higher their willingness-to-pay to upgrade. When identification with Apple was weaker, this effect did not hold.


This Is the Emotional Quality That the World’s Greatest Leaders All Share By Erika Fry and Matt Heimer

Hackers Take The Weather Channel Off the Air By Chris Morris

The Elusive Gen Z Job Candidates: How Employers Can Get on Their Short Lists By Anne Fisher

Listen Up: Apple's AirPods Face Growing List of Challengers By Don Reisinger

Nintendo Shares Surge Amid Reports Switch Console is Headed to China By Chris Morris


Some people take what they are told literally. Some people go even farther and take things literally that may be said in a lighter vein and then hypothesis test the heck out of them. Which brings us to the case of the mathematician who writes the "Possibly Wrong" blog.

Annoyed that Skittles candy claimed no two packs of Skittles were the same, the blogger set out to test the buying almost 500 packs of candy and counting the number of colored candies in each pack. It only took 82 days and 468 packs of Skittles to find two with an identical number of each color. For the record, that would be 11 red, 11 orange, 12 yellow, 13 green and 11 purple. Oy vey.

This edition of Data Sheet was curated by Aaron Pressman. Find past issues, and sign up for other Fortune newsletters.

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