As part of seven outputs being tested and evaluated, ECA announces Pioneering Pilots to Address Tech Challenges as part of World Early Childhood Development (WED) Movement

ABU DHABI, UAE, Nov. 27, 2023 /PRNewswire/ —  Abu Dhabi Early Childhood Authority (ECA) announced the roll out of two key outputs as part of the World Early Childhood Development (WED) Movement. The ‘Tech Humanity for Children’ Lab and ‘Developers Guidelines Whitepaper’ are just two of seven outputs that the WED Movement is testing in collaboration with 16 international experts.

As part of seven outputs being tested and evaluated, ECA announces Pioneering Pilots to Address Tech Challenges as part of World Early Childhood Development (WED) Movement

Following ‘comprehensive discussions’ by a number of experts of the ‘Tech Humanity for Children’ Breakthrough Working Group (BWG) of the WED Movement, two outputs are now in the implementation phase. The experts included Dr Michael Rich, Founder & Director, Digital Wellness Lab, Boston Children’s Hospital/Harvard Medical School (Team Leader), Dr Jenny Radezky, Assistant Professor of Paediatrics, University of Michigan Medical School and Dr Saeed Al Dhahreri, Director, Centre for Future Studies, University of Dubai. The progress of the pilots will be unveiled at the bi-annual WED Forum and an inaugural Tech Humanity for Children Symposium in 2024.

Her Excellency Sana Mohamed Suhail, Director General of the Abu Dhabi Early Childhood Authority explains: “The lack of scientific research in the field of early childhood development, especially local research focusing on technology and its effect on children, greatly impacts the ability of practitioners and policymakers to create the programs, interventions, and policies needed to support parents, caregivers, and young children in ensuring that technology is used positively and is not negatively impacting our young children’s development .

Her excellency pointed out that the ‘Tech Humanity for Children’ BWG outputs aim to set industry standards and establish Abu Dhabi as a model for child-centred tech design, influencing policy changes and inspiring global adoption of child-centric principles.

She added: “By developing valuable, locally relevant tools to design high-quality interventions, together we can shape the use of technology in early childhood education and development to ensure that we leverage technological advancements in ways which support young children’s development. This can only be done if the needs of young children are at the centre of the design of these technologies, apps and media which are created for them.”

‘Tech Humanity for Children,’ which a ‘representative, forward-looking investigation’, aims to study and evaluate the use of digital technology by young children, their parents, and caregivers. As a response to the widespread of digital technology and its huge impact, ECA, New York University’s CREATE Lab, NYU Abu Dhabi’s Teaching, Learning and Development Lab, and the City University of New York are embarking on a pioneering study in collaboration with local experts. The study will run for three years and will focus on ‘measuring technology use, understanding caregiver perceptions, and hearing from young children about their preferences’, with a focus on the creation and dissemination of outputs which will inform local policy and practice around technology use in the early years. The comprehensive study will explore the impact of technology on young children’s development and well-being, filling a critical knowledge gap – in Abu Dhabi, the region, and the world.

The first BWG output will be the ‘ ‘Tech Humanity for Children’ Survey ‘. This survey, targeting 15,000 caregivers from across the Emirate of Abu Dhabi will delve into this subject, far beyond screen time. This element of the study will investigate the use of digital technology by children, their parents and their caregivers in Abu Dhabi.

The ‘Developers Guidelines Whitepaper’ is an international comparison of guidelines regarding technology products and services developed for young children across the GCC. The quality of available apps for cognitive development, and guiding parents, educators, and developers in making informed choices. It will thoroughly analyse existing guidelines and academic literature, comprehensively evaluate technology use among young children and caregivers. One of the outputs of this three-year project will be the development a user-friendly rating system for early childhood apps for use by parents, caregivers, developers, and policymakers based on local evidence.

“The needs and sensitivities of younger children, under the age of 8 years, are not being served in the design of tech products because they were never the intended audience. However, easy access to technology has exposed children to technology at much younger ages. Tech companies and policymakers are not accommodating the unique and distinct considerations for children when designing practices and policies around technology use. Content and applications for adults are frequently retrofitted for children. The Abu Dhabi Early Childhood Authority’s ‘Tech for Humanity’ initiative builds on the science of child development to design products that are child- and family-friendly, creating a learning environment at home and at school to prepare children for positive engagement and productive use of digital technology,” says Dr Michael Rich, Founder & Director, Digital Wellness Lab, Boston Children’s Hospital/Harvard Medical School (Team Leader). “Early childhood is an opportunity to mentor children in the effective use of digital technology. Interactive media platforms from streaming video to social media to gaming are creating digital spaces that allow children to behave and communicate unchecked by adult supervision, driving children toward isolation. This initiative helps align the intention and use of technology.”

World Early Childhood Development (WED) Movement is a pioneering initiative that unitesglobal and local experts, partners, and innovators to address global Early Childhood Development (ECD) challenges. WED Movement collaborates with key partners and government entities to improve Early Childhood Development (ECD) services and outcomes, through the Abu Dhabi Early Childhood Development Strategy 2035.

Notes to Editor: Please see below the abbreviations key used in this press release:

ECA – Abu Dhabi Early Childhood Authority

ECD – Early Childhood Development

WED Movement – World Early Development Movement

BWG – Breakthrough Working Group

About WED [World Early Development Movement]:

WED Movement, led by the Abu Dhabi Early Childhood Authority (ECA), is a groundbreaking knowledge stage that takes bold action to drive collaborative, innovative, and effective work in the Early Childhood Development sector in the UAE and globally. Its network and knowledge co-creation unites global experts, visionary partners, and disruptive innovators to tackle the pressing challenges faced by Abu Dhabi and the world around young children. Through disruptive design thinking, human-centric innovation, and actionable outcomes, WED Movement aims to enhance next-generation thinking in Early Childhood Development.

WED Movement acts as a catalyst for change by promoting key topics and raising awareness across sectors. It facilitates knowledge exchange with local and international stakeholders, encourages evidence-based decision-making, and fosters dialogue through its platform and the bi-annual Research Conference and WED Forum.

WED Movement benefits from the support of the Board of Trustees of the Abu Dhabi ECA and other Abu Dhabi Government entities involved in Early Childhood Development.

About ECA Abu Dhabi:

Established in 2019, the Abu Dhabi Early Childhood Authority [ECA] is a government entity that oversees the Early Childhood Development sector in Abu Dhabi.  Focusing on the period from pregnancy to 8 years of age, Abu Dhabi ECA aims to promote optimal child development and well-being through health & nutrition, family support, child protection and early care & education.  The ECA was born out of the Government of Abu Dhabi’s long-term commitment to improving child outcomes.  The vision of the ECA is for every child to be healthy, confident, curious, and able to learn and develop strong values in a safe, family-friendly Abu Dhabi.

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