Helping children understand the globalised and political world around them
You can’t avoid children looking at the front pages of any newspaper or hearing adults talking about what is happening in the world. As parents, we often feel a responsibility to shield our children from global affairs, especially when the news is as grim as war. But is shielding them from bad news the right answer? Musemio interviewed Dr Maha, professor at NYU in Global Politics, to talk about the importance of teaching children about global issues, encouraging them to see the world through other eyes and being able to communicate with people from a wide range of different cultures and traditions.
Dr Maha, you are a professor at NYU in Global Politics and author of several books in your field. What inspired you to create The Global Kid comic books?
I love my day job as a professor and author but the truth is my dream since childhood was to be a cartoonist! I used to draw Archie comic characters and create my own superheroes in my pre-teen years. So, it was really special for me to come back to cartoon drawing over 20 years later here in NYC at an art class. This led to me drawing my first Global Kid superhero comic book in 2016; it was loosely based on my life having grown up in 7 countries by age 14. This first comic was also educational, teaching kids about global politics which relates to my day job. So, it was really fun to combine these two elements — my childhood passion and education — plus win a few awards. During the pandemic, the timing suddenly felt right to take the comic to the next level — into the VR/AR realms! This was only possible because of my edtech partner Musemio in London and collaborator AR Market in Rome. Though I sketched out each page, it was Italian artist Mara Angelilli who brought the characters to life. How wonderful to have an all-female, global team to create a female Global Kid superhero! And so much fun to create the canine sidekick of Lucky, who is based on my Yorkiepoo, a rescue dog from Kentucky :).
Why is it important to teach kids about global politics?
I work primarily with grad students at NYU but also teach online courses on global politics to high schoolers via Pioneer Academics and even diplomats via the Global Diplomatic Forum; I speak publicly on these issues to different audiences globally too. I see my job as helping others make sense of a world of growing global risk so they can make better decisions. But it’s not enough to just educate teens and adults — our kids are inheriting a lot of major global challenges which frankly older generations, including governments, won’t be able to solve. This is why it’s so important to first teach kids about the challenges in global politics and second instil in them that they have an activist role to play in trying to solve them. We need all the help we can get!
How can parents help their children understand the globalised and political world around them?
Although I’m not yet a mother (but a committed aunt of over 20 years!), I think parents should be direct in talking with their children about the global challenges we are dealing with. We obviously don’t want to scare kids, but Gen Z and younger are already more aware than older generations due to tech. And well, these kids have just experienced a global pandemic and so have had no choice but to understand the world and its interconnectedness. If parents make their kids more aware now, they can be better local and global agents of change in the future.
Parents are worried about their kids spending too much time on technology like social media and playing video games. In your opinion, is technology and automation a friend or enemy?
I understand why parents would say that — video games can be addictive and social media can be harmful in terms of mental health. But the reality is we exist in a tech-driven world order — there is no turning back now. So we all have to adapt accordingly. How can we live with tech in a safe way? That lesson comes up in the comic as well, especially in the VR experience. Parents should also keep in mind that the nature of work is evolving this decade due to automation and so making kids comfortable with using tech now is in their best interest. And it can really be positive, we see that now: kids are already leveraging tech like NFTs to create art (and become millionaires apparently!); and the VR and AR tech in The Global Kid is being used to enhance how kids learn about the world.
What top tips would you give a young person to become a global citizen?
Make the effort to be aware of what’s going on in the world. Besides reading The Global Kid, talk to your parents and teachers about current events. Join school groups like Model UN to understand the global challenges we are dealing with. Read up about the many youth activists in the world to learn what they are doing to tackle these issues. And above all, think about what you might do in your own community to improve things, e.g. to live more sustainably. In a way, we are all activists now who have a role to play — governments need our help!
Find out more on how to order the book here: https://www.theglobalkid.org
Follow The Global Kid Instagram account for the updates: https://www.instagram.com/the_global_kid/