Matt Baker: How technology can help to engage children with nature

Many parents battle to get their children to put down their phones, but Countryfile presenter Matt Baker suggests using technology to help them engage with the natural world.

Getty Images Overhead view boy with camera phone photographing fern plant in woods

I have just entered the bizarre world of social media by joining Instagram (@mattbakerofficial); I’ve done this for a couple of reasons.

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The first is that my children are at an age where a lot of their friends are using social media as a form of communication and as a parent I think I need to understand how this new world actually works. The second is that the worlds of TV and online platforms used to be two very separate entities, but these days, there is a huge crossover. In fact, we now have designated teams who solely look after the online content for the programmes I work on. It’s something that, as a TV producer, I have got to engage with.

Phone with map

The reason I went into TV in the first place was to communicate, and to give people the chance to learn and to hear interesting ideas, so I’m up for the challenge of putting worthwhile content online for people to discover and enjoy. It might take a while for me to work out how best to use social media but, as a broadcaster, engaging with it
has become inevitable.

How tech can help interest children in nature

Technology was a recurring theme at Countryfile Live this year. A lot of parents asked: “How do I get my kids off their tech?” My answer may have come as a surprise. I’ve found that the best approach is actually to use technology and its incredible apps to learn about the environment you’re in. GPS apps can pinpoint exactly where we are. Weather apps allow my children to engage with weather systems that are arriving; we look at live satellite images directly above us. They can now look up and predict the weather and verify it on our apps. There are umpteen apps about recognising trees, birds, stars and flowers that are brilliant for kids.

When we travel, both my children will find the best route, getting an idea of the geography of our destination and the places we’ll pass. They’ll also find out what we can do while we’re there. Taking photos on a phone in the wilds is another way of recognising and capturing the beauty of where you are and sharing it with others.

View this post on Instagram

Chicks in a basket #chicks #farm #farmlife #chickens

A post shared by Matt Baker (@mattbakerofficial) on

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Recently, I listened to a talk at Willows Veterinary Centre in the West Midlands about the future of veterinary medicine. A quote by Abraham Lincoln struck a chord with me: “The best way to predict the future is to create it”. So for me, Instagram is going to be an exciting challenge to try to engage people of all ages in nature, food and farming… #wishmeluck.