Tech & Media
5 Really Good Tech Habits To Borrow from Dot
By Alicia McAuley
Nov 24, 2016
My three-year-old son affectionately refers to my sister-in-law as “Auntie Computer,” a nickname that he bestowed upon her during a video chat early in his toddlerhood. She lives in Sweden, which means that most of their interaction happens via Skype or FaceTime — something I couldn’t have envisioned when I was his age, but he’s never known any different. Today’s little digital natives are as likely to have a tablet as a tricycle, and can operate a smartphone before they have all their baby teeth.
It’s a whole new world for parents and caregivers, as we try to navigate issues like screen time and online safety, which is why it’s refreshing to see a children’s show that focuses on responsible tech use in a fun and engaging way. Dot, based on the book by Randi Zuckerberg, shows kids the many ways that technology can enhance everyday life, while also modeling responsible behaviour. Here are a few of the reasons why Dot is such a great tech role model for kids.
She follows safety rules
Setting safety rules and restrictions around technology can be tricky. On the one hand, you want your kids to feel comfortable with technology, since it plays a significant role in their daily lives. But on the other hand, you also want to make sure they’re using smart devices, navigating the web, and playing with high-tech toys in a safe and responsible way. In various episodes, you’ll notice that Dot uses a family computer located in the kitchen — a perfect spot for easy monitoring by Mom and Dad. She also has her own account or “Dot mode” on both the family computer and her tablet, which ensures that she has access to content and apps that are age-appropriate (the accounts for Mom and Dad, meanwhile, are locked). Dot even has her own app, courtesy of Mom, called the Dotopedia — a “walled-garden” style app that lets her explore the world in a safe and secure way (with tons of info at her fingertips, but no social connectivity).
She loves to play outside
Dot is all about using technology to explore the world around her, and that includes spending plenty of time in the great outdoors — not just playing video games inside all day. On a scavenger hunt with her dad and friend Hal, Dot uses tech to take their nature hike to the next level, snapping photos and using apps to learn more about the things they find. But she also learns that sometimes you just need to stash your tablet and go climb a tree. Using tech to enhance outdoor play is a recurring theme in Dot, and it’s one that we can definitely get behind!
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She puts friendship first
It’s easy to get swept up in the excitement of a cool augmented reality game or high-tech treasure hunt, but Dot is always ready to press pause and put her friends first. When Nev wants to quit playing Space Squids, Dot is quick to offer help and encouragement, even if it means coming in last place. And when Hal loses his backpack on their geocaching adventure, Dot calls time out on the treasure hunt to help him track it down. As kids get older and start exploring the world of online gaming, the concept of putting kindness and friendship ahead of “winning” is key. It’s also worth noting that Dot only uses tech in a positive and helpful way when it comes to her friends, which is an important message at a time when online bullying is such a huge concern.
She’s respectful and responsible
Let’s be honest, today’s high-tech toys don’t come cheap. While we want our kids to respect all their belongings, it’s perhaps even more essential when we’re talking about a tablet or an electric scooter. Dot takes excellent care of her high-tech gear, whether she’s teaching a robotic dog new tricks, or flying a drone to deliver cups of cold lemonade. As Mom would say, “fly it low, slow, and watch where you go!”
She knows when to unplug
In a world where gadgets and smart devices are so ubiquitous, finding tech-life balance can be tricky. Dot has interests other than technology, too — she’s into magic, she’s learning to play the cello, and she loves to cuddle with her best pup, Scratch. A central theme of Dot is that technology enhances our lives, but it doesn’t control our lives. Kids (and adults!) need to follow Dot’s lead and recognize when it’s time to unplug for a while.