Abu Dhabi’s WED Movement Explores Positive Learning of Young Children through Technology

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Tech Humanity for Children Breakthrough Working Group will Pioneer Strategies to Harness the Power of Technology to Help Children Grow Up Healthier, Smarter and Kinder

Abu Dhabi, UAE: World Early Childhood Development Movement (WED Movement) today unveiled its new strategy to help parents harness the power of technology to promote positive learning and growth of young children through the pioneering work of a global team of experts in technology, media and child health.

This diverse group of child development experts form the new Tech Humanity for Children Breakthrough Working Group (BWG). With team members bringing to the group their experience working with technology and corporate leaders such as Google, IKEA, Microsoft, Apple and Intel Labs, the Tech Humanity for Children team is developing solutions to promote positive digital literacy and learning experiences for children. The group is focused on finding new ways to use technology to promote healthy mental and cognitive development of children while advocating technology as a positive engagement tool for parents.

WED Movement was formed earlier this year by the Abu Dhabi Early Childhood Authority (ECA) under the leadership of His Highness Sheikh Theyab bin Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Chairman of Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Court and Chairman of the ECA. Its mission is to spur innovation in systems, platforms and programs to help realize ECA’s mandate to provide for the health, wellbeing and protection of Abu Dhabi’s children from pregnancy to age 8 while promoting family cohesion.

By capturing the experience and insights of child health professionals, academics and educators, researchers, and technology, media and design experts, WED Movement will develop and present a series of actionable policies and programs that can be immediately implemented by ECA to benefit children across the Emirate. The new programs and platforms will also be made available to a wide range of partners to implement across the UAE and in markets worldwide.

Her Excellency Sana Mohammad Suhail, Abu Dhabi Early Childhood Authority Director General, said: “Technology can be a powerful tool that can help our children be more aspirational, nurture their creativity and help our children learn and grow. Imagine if we could develop a series of new ways for parents to better enter the digital space together with their children for a shared learning and play experience that can help our children grow up healthier, smarter and learn to be kinder to each other. That’s the mission of the WED Movement Tech Humanity for Children group.”

The Tech Humanity for Children working group is being led by Dr. Michael Rich, Pediatrician and Founder and Director of the Center on Media and Child Health. Based at Boston Children’s Hospital, the Center on Media and Child Health is the first evidence-based medical program addressing physical, media and social health relationship to digital technology.

“Our children are already in the digital space at a very young age. We have a tremendous opportunity to drive change in technology design and media content in ways parents simply can’t do themselves that will directly benefit the healthy development of young children,” Dr. Rich said. “We want to look at technology through a public health lens for what it offers our children, as opposed to viewing screens as toxic and guilting parents for allowing their children to use technology.”

To that end, he said this new Breakthrough Working Group is assessing all aspects of technology use in and out of the home as well as the interaction of parents and children together with technology. It is conducting new research to look at how technology is used in the home across the numerous nationalities that make up the highly diverse Abu Dhabi population.

The group will look to develop strategies to strengthen the private sector role in supporting responsible design of technology to meet the developmental needs of children in creating content and programs and for ways to incentivize companies to develop child-centric apps and content.

While the group is heavily focused on driving positive engagement with technology, it is also analyzing and assessing a number of challenges the growing use of technology with young children presents. That includes looking at the impact of the pandemic on increased screen time, child privacy and protection, online bullying, and technology access, affordability and use among marginalized populations. And it is assessing the potential value and impact of technology use among children of determination.

All efforts are pointed toward providing parents access to credible, trusted resources and evidence about their children’s involvement in the digital space, Dr. Rich said.

Tech Humanity for Children is one of three current WED Movement themes, with the others focused on 21st Century Lifestyle and Emotional Wellbeing and Social interaction. The three working groups operate under the guidance of Chair Cecilia Vaca Jones, Executive Director of the Netherlands-based Bernard van Leer Foundation, a group recognized globally for its work to ensure that babies, toddlers and the people who care for them have a good start in life, and Co-Chair His Excellency Omar Saif Ghobash, UAE Assistant Minister for Cultural Affairs.

Team members are globally heralded for early child development innovation and advocacy and come from a wide range of world-renowned institutions such as UNICEF, World Bank, UNESCO, Harvard University and YouTube, as well as a number of global companies in technology, entertainment and other related industries that have an impact on the development of young children. These working groups have held more than 100 strategic planning sessions and are approximately halfway through their work.

Chair Cecilia Vaca Jones said “What makes the global early childhood development community special, and what makes the WED Movement special, is that we all share a common passion for the healthy development of children everywhere and the child is always at the center of our universe. For this session of WED Movement, we selected themes that each have unique challenges parents face raising their children. But more important, they represent tremendous opportunities to develop innovative new strategies that can make a significant impact on the healthy development of children in Abu Dhabi and around the world.”