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Why we need a new approach to online safety education

A still from The Legends Family Adventure

By Giles Milton

Once upon a time, internet safety education was analogue. It was rules and tools, prevention and blocking. It was a police community officer talking to a school assembly about digital footprints and bad things you shouldn’t do online.

But in 2020, being online isn’t something children do. It is something they are – in the sense that they are never truly on- or offline. In an age when a nursery rhymes channel gets a billion weekly views and the most-watched video ever is Baby Shark, children are not so much discovering digital as being born into it.

Which begs the question: how can we educate children about internet safety from an early age, when we should no longer talk about online and offline as two distinct things? 

Firstly, the messages need to be broader – to explore behaviours and discuss risks and responses. The learning must also hold up a mirror to reflect developing experiences. And it should create a supportive environment to help children learn and develop their own resilience and wellbeing. 

So where do you find such educational resources to engage children in digital spaces – especially for free? Parent Zone has three online resources that do just that...


Embark on The Legends Family Adventure  

Google’s Be Internet Legends programme works with families and schools to help seven to 11-year-olds become safer, more confident explorers of the online world. 

An exciting new addition to the Be Internet Legends programme is The Legends Family Adventure – a three-part short film series created by Google and Parent Zone and animated by Wallace & Gromit creators Aardman. 

The three-minute films, to be released ahead of UK Anti-Bullying Week, tell the story of Lumen – a shy Internaut who loses her teddy bear and goes on an epic journey with her family to retrieve it. Along the way, they meet villains such as the Cyberbulley, Phisher, Hacker and Oversharer.

Mai Vo, Be Internet Legends manager for Google UK, said: “Now more than ever the internet is a key tool for children to be creative and develop their education. We want to help families learn about internet safety together in a fun and engaging way which is why we are proud to have created The Legends Family Adventure series in partnership with Aardman Animations and Parent Zone.”

Families can watch the adventure together and take on The Legends Family Challenge to test their digital knowledge and win prizes for their child’s school, including a live online assembly with a school in the USA and some goodies for the classroom.

Parent Zone CEO and founder Vicki Shotbolt added: “We hope that this film series will help parents to open up important discussions with their children as well as giving them an opportunity to really support their child’s school.”

Teachers can find out more about this resource and the Be Internet Legends programme – which also includes expert teaching resources, expert-led virtual events and Interland, a browser-based platform game – at https://www.legendaryteacher.parentzone.org.uk/


Chat with Ollee – a new virtual friend

Ollee is a virtual friend for children aged eight to 11 years old, created in partnership between Parent Zone and Children in Need’s A Million & Me initiative. The web browser app helps parents and children have difficult conversations about feelings, with expert advice and support for children supporting their emotional wellbeing. 

Ollee is a friendly chat bot-style character that children can customise and talk with. They can choose from a range of subjects – school, family, friends, their body, the internet and the world – and match each of these with an emotion: happy, angry, sad, confused, frustrated, stressed or worried.

Parents can follow the same pathways to access bite-sized advice for tailored help and support around the issues that might be affecting their child. 

“Ollee is designed to support parenting – technology can often be a challenge for families but this tool is all about using a medium children enjoy to support conversations parents want to have”
Vicki Shotbolt, founder and CEO, Parent Zone 

Ollee also has a School Support Pack that provides a KS2 lesson plan that aligns to the Physical health and mental wellbeing section of the RSE Curriculum. Teachers can find out more and register for resources at parentzone.org.uk/Ollee


Explore online behaviours and risks with Lil’ Blue

Digiworld is an educational curriculum and interactive online game for children aged five to 16. 

The online game tailors a range of quizzes to challenge a child’s online knowledge and critical thinking. It helps them progress at their own pace through different levels depending on their age, experience and ability.

It is also supported by a printable digital library, so that if a child comes across a word or concept that they are not sure about – such as algorithm, fake news or cyberbullying – they can get more help and begin to grow their digital literacy. 

The programme was created in partnership between Parent Zone and Telenor and also has downloadable lesson plans and worksheets suitable for children aged seven to 16. 

These educational resources are built around the elements of the UKCIS digital resilience framework – and can be accessed by teachers at www.telenor.com/digiworld-en/for-teachers/