NEW YORK » Mark Zuckerberg’s father said in a radio interview that an early exposure to computers inspired his son’s interest in technology, and he encouraged parents to support their children’s strengths and passions with a balance of "work and play."
"My kids all grew up around the office and were all exposed to computers," said Dr. Edward Zuckerberg, a dentist. "There are advantages to being exposed to computers early on. That certainly enriched Mark’s interest in technology."
Zuckerberg said he computerized his offices in 1985. His son Mark Zuckerberg, co-founder and CEO of Facebook, was born in 1984 and was raised in the house where his father’s dental offices are located in Dobbs Ferry, N.Y., in suburban Westchester.
The dentist spoke for an hour on Westchester station WVOX in an interview with Paul Feiner.
The dentist said his own computer science background was "limited" — he majored in biology in college — but he said he’s "always been technologically oriented in the office" and "always had the latest high-tech toys," including an early Atari 800.
"It came with a disk for programming," he said. "I thought Mark might be interested and I imparted that knowledge to him. From there, it took off."
Feiner and a number of callers to the live radio program asked Zuckerberg for advice on parenting.
"Probably the best thing I can say is something that my wife and I have always believed in," he said. "Rather than impose upon your kids or try and steer their lives in a certain direction, to recognize what their strengths are and support their strengths and support the development of the things they’re passionate about."
Zuckerberg said he "didn’t believe in physical discipline" but added that certain behaviors require parents to let children know "right there on the spot, this is a behavior that will not be tolerated. If you impart your dislikes about certain negative behaviors early in their lives, they will learn to understand what your feelings on certain matters are."
Zuckerberg said he doesn’t want to portray himself as an expert on child rearing, but he said: "I think that extremes in any form in parenting are not good. Children need to be well-rounded. There’s a place for work and a place for play."
He said that when Mark was named Time magazine’s person of the year, his famous son remarked that "it must have been a really slow year. He’s very humble."
"I’m proud of his accomplishments and the accomplishments of all my kids," he added. Mark’s sister Randi is marketing director for Facebook, his sister Donna is a Ph.D. candidate in classics at Princeton, and the youngest, Arielle, is a senior at Claremont McKenna College with a minor in computer science.
Asked for his opinion of the movie "The Social Network," Zuckerberg said, "If I sat back and looked at it as a movie and not as a story about my son, it was a tolerable experience."
Asked by a caller whether his wife, Karen, worked when their children were young, he said, "My wife was a superwoman. She managed to work and be home. We had a unique situation because my office was in the house. I highly recommend it if it works for your occupation. It did afford the ability to work and be home with the kids at the same time."