This week (June 18th - 24th) is Child Safety Week. I was recently invited to run a web safety workshop for a group of Brownies in Grantham. My neice, aged 9 was eager to introduce me to her pack. I'd been looking at putting togethe a children's web safety portal with an existing client FairyGlam who run Lucy Locket an online shop selling all things girlie, pink and sparkly for little imagination aged 5 - 9 yrs of age. This is the age of technology. Safety when I was a Brownie was Tufty, the Green Cross Code man and Charlie the Cat. Road dangers, strangers and fire. I remember learning to safely light a match, contientiously cross the road and to never, ever talk or go with strangers. There were no online dangers but has the notion of safety really changed?
I do not have children of my own but the surface pitfalls and dangers are all to obvious and adults who learnt their safety lessons as children take those lessons in to adulthood. We use this knowledge and share it with the younger generations as they encounter the dangers around us day to day. But the Internet is an environment we didn't have to navigate as children. To many its a dark world infested with pornography and aborhent content not appropriate in polite company which can now be interpreted as off-line behaviour. It resonates with our sense of morality and questions ethics, right and wrong.
I felt a responsibility to these young girls to provide information in a fun way yet pass on seriuos information that I wanted them to take on board and reflect upon. I also didn't want to scare them. I knew some girls would be aware of the dangers with others not so tuned in. I expected that this would in turn relate to the Internet use and understanding within thier family units. What these girls taught me was propably more than I inparted to them.
What I discovered was that web safety in the minds of children went hand in hand with not talking to strangers, not revealing personal information or that of your friends. The peril dangers fire and road safety were less of a priority. Blocking and reporting to moderators or guardians was a familiar behavior and what shocked me is that a majority of the girls had stories of having to do this after being exposed to explicit langauge and intimidating behaviours.
So what did the workshop contain? My aim was to re-enforce the basics and get the girls talking. Also this was to prepare for the work to be done for the Computer badge.
Its a wide gap between 7 and 11 year olds to I guess I played it safe making it a variation on a puzzle hunt and a run around game in the vein of North South East West points in the room.
I used the Zip it, Block it, Flag it campaign. I also referred heavily to the Brownie website using their web safety code as a foundation to iniate conversation. As I am not an expert in this field I wanted to reinforce the basics with out misinformation or personal opinion. What was impressed upon me most was, the parents were the weak link in the chain. New technology is merely utility to these youngsters. It's safety implication a kin to road safety or talk to strangers. These physical dangers they were aware of less.