When I was little, I desperately wanted to see Santa Claus with my own eyes. Every Christmas without fail, I’d wake up in the middle of the night and run downstairs to catch him in the act. (Naturally, I had always just missed him!)
Kids looking to stalk jolly old St. Nick this holiday will have it a little easier than I did, thanks to Google’s Santa Tracker. This year, the site features an interactive village full of games, videos, and educational trivia. Each day in December, more games and challenges are unlocked, making the site like a digital advent calendar. Your child can learn to say “Santa” in different languages, explore holiday traditions around the world, and more. Of course, when the big day arrives, the family can keep tabs on Santa’s location too.
On Thursday, Google debuted Made W/ Code (madewithcode.com), a site and program dedicated to inspiring young girls to learn code by connecting them with other like-minded female coders and letting them create colorful projects like animated avatars, short soundtracks, and customized bracelets (create one using a 3D printer here!) — all for free.
Currently, in the U.S., only 12 percent of computer science graduates are women and only 1 in 5 programmers are female. Google itself admitted only 17% of their programmers are female! With such low numbers, the site aims to show girls how fun coding can be in order to reduce the gender gap in the computer science and tech industry.
Here are some of our editors’ thoughts after attending the Made W/ Code launch:
Allison Berry, Editorial Assistant, Parents magazine I couldn’t get over how empowering each speaker was! All my life my engineer dad has been telling me that I should get into STEM, but it just never clicked with me. After listening to brilliant women like Pixar’s Danielle Feinberg and iLuminate’s Miral Kotb talk about how coding brought them to their dream careers, my interest was definitely piqued. They did a wonderful job of explaining not only how coding is an essential part of their jobs, but also how it plays into our everyday life. Now I’m curious to know what I could do if I knew how to code!
Chrisanne Grise, Editorial Assistant, Parents magazine
For me, the best part of the event was being surrounded by so much girl power. It was impossible not to be moved by the incredible women who have used code to make such an impact on the world. I was particularly inspired by Danielle Feinberg, the Director of Photography for Lighting at Pixar. She spoke to the teen girls about her own high school experience as the only girl in an engineering class. (Naturally, she showed up all the boys!) It was a funny story, but also a great reminder to be brave and stay true to your passions, no matter what anyone else thinks. At the end of the night, I felt empowered and ready to take on the world — and wondering if I should have studied computer science instead of journalism!
Sherry Huang, Features Editor, Parents.com
Watch a video below to learn more about Made W/ Code:
It’s not too surprising that the comments section of a New York Times opinion piece entitled “Google, Tell Me. Is My Son a Genius?” served as the arena for a recent battle of the sexes.
The article explored the results of an informal study of parents’ Google searches, concluding that questions involving intelligence are more likely to be asked in regard to boys (“Is my son gifted?”), while questions relating to appearance are more likely to be asked in regard to girls (“Is my daughter beautiful?”).
It’s discouraging to note that even in 2014, our culture places a woman’s highest importance on her body, and that even in 2014, we are not yet able to resist a good old-fashioned, uh, peepeeing contest when it comes to comparing offspring.
But the article, and its responses, neglects to address a much bigger overarching problem: Why are parents consulting an Internet search engine to substantiate their children’s value?
Say Google confirms your hunch that your son is intellectually gifted, but he doesn’t make the cut for his elementary school’s gifted program. Will you confront his principal? “But the Internet said so.”
And what if Google’s search results suggest that your daughter isn’t as pretty as you think she is? Will you then consult with your little girl? “Sweetheart, I was doubting your societal attractiveness, so I turned to Google for help. We’re going to have to do something about your hair.”
These examples hyperbolize reactions, not actions. We do this. We type our human thoughts and feelings and concerns into a search bar, and we expect human results. But we’re mistaken. Google is a machine that analyzes our words as data, numbers. Children are people, not numbers, so let’s not allow Google to analyze them.
Teach your children that what the Internet says is not what goes. Show them that they need to prove their worth to no one but themselves. Instill your sons and your daughters with the confidence to know that they are talented and gorgeous and wonderful and loved, no matter their gender, and no matter what Google says. Besides, do you really want to explain your search history?
Click here for a family internet use contract, and follow these tips to limit your child’s screen time, and your own.