Jenna Bush Hager: “I want the moments that I have with Mila to not be interrupted by anything.”
Last week, Jenna Bush Hager ventured to Brooklyn, New York to introduce educators to Bing in the Classroom—a new initiative (free for schools) to bring technology safely to America’s students—and to lead a special lesson plan for the kids of PS 205. As a former teacher, rising journalist, and mom to 1-year-old Mila, Jenna knows that technology can teach us a lot, but must be used carefully. Parents caught up with Jenna to discuss technology, education, and life with her little girl.
P: As we continue advancing in this digital age, technology is both friend and foe. What are some “best practices” for helping children to use these tools productively and safely?
JBH: As a new mom I’m particularly concerned with that. It’s important that we give kids access to the technology—particularly in schools—so they’ll be successful learners and eventually successful workers for our country. The one thing I don’t want to do, personally, is use technology as a replacement for the job that I’m supposed to be doing. I want to use it in a way that can help Mila learn and grow, but I don’t ever want it to replace our dinner conversations. I even found myself working while taking care of her, and I just realized it had to stop. When I get home from work I leave my cell phone up in the front of our house in a little basket and I take her back and we do the bedtime routine. I want the moments that I have with her to not be interrupted by anything.
P: As Mila grows, how do you hope to ensure her digital safety and digital “health,” especially with social media as prominent as it is?
JBH: Obviously, Mila is only 1. It’s something that I think Henry and I are quite conscious of and even worried about. I grew up wanting to play outside and we didn’t have video games or any of that. I didn’t even have a cell phone until I was in college, so this is a totally different world. I feel like it’s uncharted waters for the two of us. Not only do I want her to stay protected, but I also don’t want my husband and I to be so distracted by technology that we don’t interact.
P: Are there any other specific tech safety lessons you anticipate teaching her?
JBH: It’s hard to say because I’ve only been a parent for a year so I don’t want to speak on things that I’m not that knowledgeable about yet, but I know from my students that obviously safe search is important. As a parent you have to monitor what your children are doing online, that’s all there is to it. It’s a huge concern that these kids are putting something on the internet and it stays there for the rest of their lives. I want to teach her that you can use it and to connect with friends, but it shouldn’t be your only connection and what you’re putting on there stays there forever.
P: As we were saying, Mila just turned 1. How did you celebrate the big first birthday?
JBH: We actually just celebrated on Saturday with a little cowboy and Senoritas party, so we brought some Texas to New York City. I still have Cheerios all over my apartment. We just had a lot of friends over and family, including my sister. Mila loved cake, of course, she’d never had it and she quite appreciated sugar, like her mother.
P: Is there anything that she does that is just like you when you were a baby?
JBH: She reminds me a lot of the two of us. She’s really curious, which as a mom I love. She’s so interested and focused in the world. She’s smiling at everybody walking by. You can tell she’s an extrovert. When she’s around people she loves getting energy from them. She’s just the most curious little person. It’s hard to say what I was like as a baby, but I know that she has this curiosity for life that I just love.
P: Reading is a big part of your life. What are your favorite books to read with her?
JBH: This is cliché, but it was my favorite book that my parents read to us: Goodnight Moon. We have it in English, Spanish and French. I don’t speak French, I speak Spanish. Henry took a little bit of French so he reads the French one. My friend just gave us a huge collection of Madeleine books, including one that is in Spanish. I’m really excited to get into those because when I was little I just adored her. I thought she was such a fun character. I love Dr. Seuss, obviously. [Books] are her favorite toys, which I love. My mother was a librarian; I love to read. I think that’s something that I can pass on to her.
P: What are our country’s greatest challenges with regard to education today and what are some steps we can take to fix those?
JBH: That’s a huge question. I think the biggest challenge is making sure that every single child gets access to an excellent education. There’s this gap between students that have access to really good educations and those that don’t. We want to make sure every child no matter where they live, what neighborhood, has access to a really excellent education. As far as solving it, it would have been solved had it been an easy problem. But there are so many amazing organizations and innovative programs like Bing in the Classroom, Teach for America, the Harlem Children’s Zone. The fact that there are so many smart people working on it gives me a lot of hope that this problem will be solved.Add a Comment