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

World Early Childhood Development Movement (WED Movement), which was launched recently by Early Childhood Authority (ECA) under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Theyab bin Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Chairman of Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Court and Chairman of the Abu Dhabi Early Childhood Authority (ECA), has revealed its agenda and the strategic focus of the Tech Humanity for Children breakthrough working group.

The first edition of WED Movement will focus on three topics. The first is about tech humanity for children and aims to pave the way towards the 5th industrial revolution, while the second addresses the 21st Century lifestyle to encourage a better lifestyle with improved physical and mental health outcomes. The third topic aims at improving emotional well-being and social interaction of children and those around them.

The announcement was made during a session hosted by ECA to highlight 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.

The session was attended by His Excellency Omar Saif Ghobash, UAE Assistant Minister for Cultural Affairs and Co-Chair of WED Movement Breakthrough Working Groups, and Dr. Saeed Al Dhaheri, Tech Humanity for Children team member and Chairman of Smartworld, UAE’s leading systems integrator, and Dr. Yousef Al Hammadi, ECA Executive Director, Knowledge & Impact Sector.

His Excellency Omar Saif Ghobash said: “Technology is a part of our lives and 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.”

He also emphasized the importance of strengthening the private sector role in supporting human technology to meet the developmental needs of children in creating content and programs.

Dr. Saeed Al Dhaheri 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, we are assessing all aspects of technology use in and out of the home as well as interaction of parents and children together with technology. We are committed to using the knowledge and experience of this team to drive innovation that can help our children grow up healthier, smarter and learn to be kinder to each other.”

With team members bringing to the group experience from work with such tech and corporate leaders as Google, IKEA, Microsoft, Apple and Intel Labs, the Tech Humanity for Children team is finding solutions to promote positive digital literacy and learning experiences for children. One objective of the group is to find 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. It is also assessing the potential value and impact of technology use among children of determination.

In addition to analyzing existing research and data, the Tech Humanity for Children group is conducting original research on technology use and habits among Abu Dhabi children that will influence their work.

Dr. Yousef Al Hammadi : “Technology can be a powerful tool to help our children learn and grow. We can help parents learn how to better enter the digital space together with their children for a shared learning and play experience. We can show them how technology can help our children to be aspirational, nurture their creativity, and learn how to express themselves in an authentic and kind way. But our parents need access to credible, trusted resources and evidence about their children’s involvement in the digital space”.

The three current WED Movement breakthrough working groups operate under the guidance of Chair Cecilia Vaca Jones, Executive Director of the Bernard van Leer Foundation, and Co-Chair His Excellency Omar Saif Ghobash.

 

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.

 

By capturing the experience and insights of child health professionals, academics and educators, researchers, 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.

WED Movement was formed earlier this year by the ECA 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.

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