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'Dot': How A Little Girl Uses Technology To Interact With The World

KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

A new children's show is premiering on Sprout this weekend. It's called "Dot." It's about a young girl trying to find a balance between using technology and interacting with the world around her, say, while on a nature scavenger hunt with her dad.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "DOT")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: (As Dot) I have all kinds of other apps on my tablet, too. They'll make finding the stuff on our list super-easy.

(SOUNDBITE OF OWL HOOTING)

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #2: (As character) A great horned owl. It's a bird of prey. That's on your list.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: (As Dot) A what? Where?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #2: (As character) You missed it 'cause you were looking at your screen.

MCEVERS: Randi Zuckerberg is one of the show's executive producers. She wrote the children's book that inspired the show. She says she hopes it will encourage more girls to get into tech. That was after 10 frustrating years she spent in Silicon Valley.

RANDI ZUCKERBERG: I grew so frustrated by so few women in the room wherever I went. It was a fantastic decade, but also a lonely one. And so I thought, what if we could get more messages out into pop culture with female role models for young girls, showing them how exciting and cool and wonderful this world of technology is? Maybe that could inspire the next generation of leaders.

So that was one of my real motivations for "Dot." But the other was having children of my own. On one hand, I'm sitting there writing about all these amazing uses of tech, and then, in my own household, tech is making me want to rip my hair out of my head. And I thought, wow, we really need a book that covers this topic of balance, what it means to be a child in the modern digital age and something that gets parents comfortable around that.

MCEVERS: You know, it's interesting, yeah, to see a - you know, there's a young girl at the center of the show. Technology is a huge part of her life. I mean, she's basically, like, carrying a tablet around with her all the time and using it to solve problems. But I guess if you do the flip side, you know, I thought about my own 7-year-old daughter watching this, and I thought, so she - if she was watching this show, she would be watching a screen about a girl who's carrying a screen a lot of the time. I mean, isn't it that we don't need to encourage our kids to use more screens, it's that we kind of are trying to have them use less?

ZUCKERBERG: You know, it's something we thought about so much in turning the book into a show. I think there's a few thoughts that I have. On one hand, yes, the tech-life balance for children should skew so far on the side of life. It's not even a tech-life balance question. Like, children should get outside.

MCEVERS: Yeah.

ZUCKERBERG: But on the other hand, we need to make sure that we are not projecting our own fear and anxiety and guilt as parents onto children because, for some reason, adults, when we think of screen time, we immediately go to a place of anxiety and fear.

MCEVERS: Right, right.

ZUCKERBERG: But children don't feel that way. To them, the future is fun. They don't think about, now I'm using tech, and now I'm not.

MCEVERS: Yeah.

ZUCKERBERG: It's seamlessly integrated. So I think we also need to make sure, as parents, that we are giving our children the tools that they'll need to be successful for the rest of their lives and arming them with enough tech literacy.

MCEVERS: You worked in Silicon Valley for a long time, as you said. Full disclosure - we should say you were an executive at Facebook. Your brother is Mark Zuckerberg. And when you talk about how there weren't enough women in tech, is that one of the reasons you left?

ZUCKERBERG: You know, I - there were several reasons I left, including the fact that I just - I love New York City. Growing up in New York, I never felt conscious about being a woman. I went out to Silicon Valley, and suddenly every moment I was aware that I was a woman. I remember sending emails to people.

And I guess Randi could be a guy or girl's name, and they would look visibly disappointed when a woman walked into the room. I guess they thought they were meeting with Randi, a guy. It got exhausting being in room after room of people saying, how do we solve this problem, but then not really doing anything.

MCEVERS: The problem of not enough women being in tech?

ZUCKERBERG: Exactly.

MCEVERS: I mean, this is the big debate, right? Is it the pipeline? Is it that there are not enough women and girls in the pipeline at all? Or is it about what happens once they get through the pipeline? I mean, does some of the responsibility lie with the companies, too?

ZUCKERBERG: Absolutely. You know, I think it is a multi-prong problem, and that's why it's going to be difficult to fix it. Diversity takes effort, and it's worth the effort. But on the other hand, I mean, look at a system like Silicon Valley. You have this incredible, entrenched system, where you have these top engineering schools with primarily men graduating in computer science.

MCEVERS: Right.

ZUCKERBERG: Then you have all the top venture capitalist investors that are around those schools trying to poach that talent...

MCEVERS: Right.

ZUCKERBERG: ...Who are mostly men. And then because it's men funding men, they hire men. No one out there is trying to be biased, but it's just the nature of this game. And then it keeps feeding itself.

So we need to do more on the educational level to get more women into the pipeline, and I'm thrilled that this is the first year at Stanford that there's equal number of men and women in computer science. But you're right, some of it does fall on investors and companies putting in that extra effort to have diversity.

MCEVERS: Randi Zuckerberg, thank you so much.

ZUCKERBERG: Thank you so much.

MCEVERS: Randi Zuckerberg is an executive producer of the children's show "Dot," which premieres on Sprout tomorrow. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.