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

Aaron Pressman
Esther Wojcicki's Secrets for Raising Great Leaders

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.

Adam Lashinsky @adamlashinsky adam_lashinsky@fortune.com


    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 pharmaceutical research.

    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 top expand its transactions 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 is all about the consumer’s feelings of self-esteem and self-improvement. Here’s one example:


    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

    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 statement…by 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.