Kids and tech are the 21st Century’s birds and bees—a topic parents don’t want to talk about, but need to start as soon as possible. While the “how soon is too soon to introduce your child to tech” debate varies from household to household, conversely, delaying any tech talk can create missed opportunities down the line—particularly for girls.
To change around the culture of fear and guilt when it comes to kids and tech, we have to look to the adults. When parents and educators worry about what too much technology exposure can do to a child, adults can become riddled with anxiety, even experiencing “tech shame,” a feeling of being judged over the amount of screen time they give their children. In result, tech encouragement is withheld, cutting kids off from learning how to use, adapt, and create tools that are not only changing the world, but are also helping to level the playing field.
Embracing tech is to thrive, as shown in a 2013 EdTech Review. It was reported that educational apps increased the vocabularies of 3-year-olds by 17%; that more than 600 school districts from around the nation use tablets instead of textbooks; and that of all the parents polled, 77% agreed mobile technology helped their child’s learning and curiosity grow. These positive statistics show what tech offers both in and out of the classroom, but on the other side of the Bitcoin, restricting tech education can be just as detrimental as it is promising, especially when it comes to job growth.
In a 2016 study from Girls Who Code, research suggests that if nothing is done to encourage computer science to women, in 10 years the number of women in tech will fall from 24% to 22%. It’s exactly these kind of conflicting, concerning numbers that inspired me to create Dot.
Dot. was born out of two needs: First, as a parent in this tech-focused world myself, I wanted to inspire innovation for the next generation of tech savvy leaders, not stifle it. And second, as a woman in an industry dominated by white men, I wanted to inspire young girls and people of color to learn about technology. With Dot., I hope to help uncover what it means to be a child in the modern digital age. She teaches healthy digital citizenry and helps further the practice of responsible tech behavior. But while Dot. promotes a healthy balance of playfulness and tech, I didn’t just create Dot. for kids—Dot. is for the parents too.
It’s up to parents to give children the tools they’ll need to be successful. In today’s modern world, tech literacy and STEM education is every bit as important as learning how to tie shoelaces, tell the time, or read a book. TechEd should be measured and thoughtful, delivered with encouragement and healthy role models—and that includes minding our own tech behaviors for those who look up to us.
Developing programming that appeals to children is just the tip of the iceberg. I hope to encourage girls to equate science and tech with any other fun and favorite activity, allowing real and digital worlds to collide in unimaginable ways. And for the parents, get out of your child’s way. Don’t fear the Tech Talk, embrace it.
Dot. airs on Sprout every Saturday at 11am ET.