Phoebe Gates Once Tried to Trick Her Parents with Cardboard Phone: 'I Remember Getting in Trouble for That'

The Stanford University student and activist opened up in a new interview about her childhood — and shared how she's making a difference as an adult

<p>Taylor Hill/WireImage</p>

Taylor Hill/WireImage

  • Phoebe Gates recalled during a recent interview that she tried to trick her parents about her cell phone use as a child

  • The youngest of Bill Gates and Melinda French Gates' three children devised a cardboard decoy to make her parents think she was not using her phone

  • The Stanford University student is now dedicating her time on social media to women's rights and causes

Phoebe Gates is recalling an incident from her youth in which she tricked her parents into thinking she was not using her cell phone.

The Stanford University student and women’s rights activist said in a recent interview with Bustle that her parents, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates and Melinda French Gates, were strict about cell phone usage when she was younger — and that she wasn’t able to get a phone of her own until she was 12 or 13 years old.

But the tough party line on cell phones didn’t stop there.

Gates, 21, also said that her parents required her and her siblings to plug their phones in so that they would not use them before bed, revealing that she once devised a cardboard decoy in an effort to outwit them.

Related: Bill Gates and Melinda French Gates Celebrate Daughter Phoebe's 21st Birthday: 'So Proud'

“I thought I could dupe my dad, and it worked, actually, for a couple nights,” Gates told the outlet. “And then my mom came home and was like, ‘This is literally a piece of cardboard you’re plugging in. You’re using your phone in your room.’ Oh, my gosh, I remember getting in trouble for that.”

Yet, as she got older, the activist realized that the technology could be used for good.

Gates said, “My parents gave me enough freedom where the phone could be used as a tool, so if I wanted to go somewhere and stay in contact with them, they knew I was safe. But they were pretty good about monitoring my presence online.”

Related: Phoebe Gates Dons Stunning Nude Dress at Feud: Capote vs. The Swans Premiere: ‘Great Night’

In the same vein, Gates told Bustle that her parents made sure that she and her siblings — older brother Rory, now 24, and sister, Jennifer, 27 — were aware of their place in the world. “Since a very young age, it was acknowledged that we, as kids, were in a huge position of privilege, and that came with a ton of responsibility for us to do something good,” she said.

These days, Gates — who is expected to graduate from Stanford this summer — is using her platform to advocate for women’s rights while pursuing a career in design with the pending launch of the fashion-tech company Phia.

Last fall, Gates attended and moderated a panel at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation's Goalkeepers event, where she discussed entrepreneurship, agency and gender equity with Karlie Kloss and author Kathryn Finney.

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Her appearance drew raves from her dad, who gave Gates a sweet shout-out on his Instagram Story, writing that she "did a remarkable job speaking about the importance of women's power."

Mom, too, is endorsing Gates' foray into activism. On Monday, when she proudly shared a link on Instagram of her interview with Bustle — her mom acknowledged the accomplishment. “Proud of you, @phoebegates!” French Gates wrote in the comments.

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