Randi Zuckerberg is really into Pokemon Go.
“I know there’s a lot of controversy around Pokemon Go right now, but I love Pokemon Go! I go out to the park with my son, and we’ll walk for two hours together around Central Park. How else could you get a five-year-old out walking around the park for two hours? And we have a great time together,” says Zuckerberg, whose myriad roles include founder and CEO of Zuckerberg Media, editor-in-chief of the online community Dot Complicated and host of the popular Oxygen reality show "Quit Your Day Job."
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If you're at all familiar with Zuckerberg's popular children's book "Dot" — featuring an unapologetically feminine, pink polka-dot wearing little girl who builds robots, flies drones and rocks a 3-D printer — then her love of Pokemon Go as a teaching tool should come as no surprise. "Dot" sends a clear message: As long as kids have rules, boundaries and designated times to unplug from their gadgets, then tech can and should be a tool for learning and fun.
Expect to see more of "Dot" soon. This fall, she's getting her own eponymously-named animated series. Zuckerberg, alongside Lisa Henson and Halle Stanford of The Jim Henson Company and Matthew Fernandes and Tammy Semen of Industrial Brothers, will serve as executive producers on the project. The show debuts Oct. 22 on Sprout, NBCUniversal’s channel for kids.
When we caught up with Zuckerberg, she gushed about why she's excited to bring Dot — who she considers "a real badass" — to life.
"Dot" was inspired in part by your adult book on technology, “Dot Complicated.” Did readers just fall in love the book?
It’s definitely funny: When you talk about technology and children, people have very strong reactions. So many people that I've shared the book with have gone into schools, and have loved it, and loved its message. The message of the book is actually about balance, and at the end of the book Dot and her friends unplug and put the devices away — that’s kind of the moral of the book.
There’s also a whole slew of people who never opened the book at all, or even know what it’s about, but because there’s a picture of a girl on the cover holding an iPad, they’re immediately against it. They’re just so opposed to engaging with technology in any way, it’s really surprising. If you’re still on the platform debating whether [technology] is here or not, you’ve missed the train.
True, but finding balance between screen time and old-fashioned play is a real concern among parents whose kids were basically born with Smartphones.
More and more, there are toys coming out that take a basic love of coding and building without burying kids’ faces in screens. There’s one called Wonderlab, they have this little robot named Daphne, and with a parent, you can program it to do different things on the phone. Even within a few hours of having it, my five-year-old programmed it to do a disco light show and come into my room and say “I love you, Mommy!”
Do you have suggestsions or best practices for how often kids should be on their devices?
[With tech] there’s no one-size-fits-all for families. Every family needs to evaluate their tech differently, Especially for kids who might have autism, or different disabilities, tech is a wonderful way to level the playing field. It really is about finding that happy medium in each household, and also understanding that we live in the real world. All moments of screen time should be educational, but I live in the real world. I know that sometimes you just have to buy yourself 20 minutes so you can take a shower, or you’re on an airplane and anything goes.
So what’s the premise of "Dot"? Will the show be similar to the book?
Dot gets in all these fun adventures with her friends, and they’re kind of crunched up with technology in really fun ways. Sometimes the tech helps, sometimes it takes things way out of control and way out of hand. I’ve had so much fun working on this show. We’re trying to incorporate characters that have had lots of varying degrees of exposure to tech, but at the end of the day I hope it’s a show that parents and children can watch together, and learn and incorporate and discuss.
Have your kids watched it?
My 5-year-old — I showed him one of our first episodes, it’s a Halloween episode, and they’re all trying to compete for who’s going to be the “scaremaster” of the year — I won’t give it away, but it’s technology that ultimately wins. It’s a remote character on an iPad that ultimately beats everyone. My son was hysterically laughing, and I could tell that wow, this is a generation that’s so comfortable Skyping and Facetiming with their grandparents and relatives that of course, it’s normal for him that it’s the character on the iPad that wins. That was a really fun, validating moment for me.
What do you hope kids take away from the show?
I hope that 20, 30 years from now, we’re seeing a whole new generation of awesome entrepreneurs and companies built by women who said that they watched shows like Dot when they were little girls.
It’ll be like their She-Ra Princess of Power.