When Silicon Valley tech journalist and entrepreneur Sarah Lacy became a mother, she invited a couple of fellow new parents to her San Francisco home.

"I have a huge TV in my living room, and I think we had a baseball game on in the background - we weren't even watching it or interacting with it," she recalls to the Daily Telegraph.

But then, something curious happened; as the dad, "another figure in the tech industry" held their baby, which began looking around the room, its mother obscured its view of the screen, "no, you're not going to see TV at all until you're three years old."

"She thought the baby being on this couch would be permanently damaging to her child," Lacy laughs.

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This kind of behaviour is becoming increasingly common as many of the tech world's leading lights, whose products have been used by millions of children the world over, are now intent on curbing their own offsprings' supply.

Not content with banning their children's devices, they are now legally stipulating that staff do the same – a report last weekend documented the rise in nanny contracts requiring that Silicon Valley sprogs not only be kept away from their own screens, but that those tasked with looking after them don't use their phones in front of the children, either.

Apple co-founder Steve Jobs was the first tech giant to admit, in 2011, that his own children had not used the recently-released iPad created by his company, conceding that "we limit how much technology our kids use at home."

And he wasn't alone: Microsoft founder Bill Gates set time limits on screens, banned mobile phones at the table and didn't let his children have them until they were 14, while Mark Zuckerberg implored his baby daughter to 'stop and smell the flowers' in an open letter to her released last year – one which made no mention of Facebook or the internet.

Perhaps it is becoming a parent that makes tech entrepreneurs think differently: or so they say.

Instagram founder Kevin Systrom recently expressed hope that the next generation of entrepreneurs can solve the problems of online harassment and bullying, which he failed to stamp out on his own platform; his nine-month old daughter Freya, he said, had made him think harder about his own legacy.

If others feel the same - and actually translate these concerns into action - it could be seismic for Silicon Valley.

Those at the very top, who were often barely out of university when they had their million-dollar ideas, are now grown-ups with partners and children.

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Mark Zuckerberg was still in his teens when he launched Facebook - now he is a 34-year-old married father of two.

Marissa Mayer, the former chief executive of Yahoo, was not yet 25 when she became employee number 20 at Google - she has since had three children.

Jeff Bezos was 30 and newly married when he founded Amazon in his garage - he and his wife are now parents of four.

Microsoft founder Bill Gates wouldn't allow his kids to have a mobile phone until they were 14. Photo / AP
Microsoft founder Bill Gates wouldn't allow his kids to have a mobile phone until they were 14. Photo / AP

Yet this leading to a crisis of conscience is unlikely, says Adam Alter, a professor of marketing at New York University and author of a recent book about technology addiction, as it would be "completely inconsistent with the duty they have to their shareholders - to maximise profits.

"For all the advantages they and their kids enjoy—from wealth to education—they don't trust themselves or their kids to be able to resist the charms of the very products they're promoting.

It would be "silly" to expect them to change, he says. "The best we can do is to try to uncover these hypocrisies and to air them publicly."

It might seem counterintuitive, but low-tech parenting makes sense in Silicon Valley. One of the schools popular among tech workers, the Waldorf School of the Peninsula, based near Google's Mountain View campus, believes that exposing children to technology before the seventh grade (when they are 12 or 13 years old) "can hamper their ability to fully develop strong bodies, healthy habits of discipline and self-control, fluency with creative and artistic expression and flexible and agile minds".

Beverly Amico, of the association of Waldorf Schools of North America, says tech leaders send their little ones to the school in part because keeping young children away from tech in the classroom cultivates the attributes they like to see among their staff - creative thinking, resourcefulness, and perseverance.

Tech-world parentsalso know too much. Susan Hobbs, chief of staff at security firm Cloudflare and a former venture capitalist, "completely banned" her daughter, now 16, from using social media, "which actually became a bit of a point of contention.

I would leave town and she would download Instagram. So I changed the restrictions on her phone so the App Store [to download it from] didn't even show up."

She was eventually won over by a PowerPoint presentation, in which her daughter (successfully) demonstrated that she was mature enough to use it.

But she says her decision to be strict was because she has "intimate knowledge, down to knowing the people who created the things, where my trust lies, and what my thoughts are, are different to the average consumer. When you've had personal interactions with the people who've founded companies you have an opinion about them and what their values are and you think to yourself - 'do those values align with my own?'"

For Pierre Laurent, a former marketer at Microsoft and father-of-three, there was a dramatic perspective shift when he had children of his own. Now president of the board of directors at the Waldorf school, battling screen time was "not on my radar" until he saw its impact on his son.

When he saw him "doing creative play without any technology, and inventing things and inventing stories, and how rich that world was to him," he recalls of the then-two year old, "that was not a world where technology had a place."

The experience led him to have a think hard about his priorities, and he says he would not work on "some video games, products that are targeted to adults that are used by children knowing what I know now."

Ana Homayoun, a school consultant and author of three books, most recently Social Media Wellness, designed to help parents understand and manage their children's technology use, thinks tech leaders are currently starting to think harder about how their creations affect all children.

Becoming a parent "has an impact on everything", she says, and the parents she meets in Silicon Valley schools generally have a sensible - as opposed to overly strict - approach, including boundary-setting and introducing app age limits.

"I think that there's a tipping point that's happening right now in that companies are starting to think and become more aware," she says, with apps are being used "not always in the way that was initially understood or intended, and companies are having to adapt to that."

Most of the big social media founders are yet to see the full impact of their own creations on their children, who are largely too young to use social media; in the meantime, it would be prudent for venture capitalists, who control the millions of dollars that can make or break a company, begin assessing how best to design tech that can have a good impact on youngsters.

While bottom line is still king, a change could come from lower down: Silicon Valley workers have discovered a taste for activism recently, mounting a series of successful high-profile campaigns from thousands of Google employees signing a letter protesting the company's contract with the US Department of Defense (it later dropped the deal) to Susan Fowler Rigetti, an engineer at Uber, speaking out about sexism last year, which eventually forced out its chief executive Travis Kalanick.

More generous paternity leave, too, is coming about as the result of pressure from young fathers on these companies' pay roll.

As talented tech employees show increased willingness to leave – or at least, publicly embarrass – companies that fail to fulfill their ethical standards, perhaps this is the kind of 'disruption', the Silicon Valley buzzword adopted by so many founders, that they actually need.