Sunday, April 20, 2008

Serious Games To Help Build Children’s Online Safety Skills

Serious Games challenging us to play cybersafety education


Via: Hector's World

Hector’s World™ (HW) is an innovative initiative that uses high-quality web-based animation and interactive educational activities to help build children’s online safety skills.

This education is aimed at young children (ages 2-10), their families, early childhood centres, schools and social welfare organizations in the global community.

Young children can be very adept at independently navigating the internet, using mobile phones and other information communication technology. Their young age means they have difficulty understanding risk and protecting themselves from harm, yet often their online activity is unsupervised. In this connected world, such cybersafety education now needs to be considered fundamental child safety instruction, alongside road and water safety.

Having an informed and confident populace, who are actively and positively participating in the online community from their first access (sometimes under four years of age), helps maximize the many opportunities ICT offers.
Such education can help children (and parents) be more actively engaged in their own online safety and security, and that of others, thus contributing to effective and efficient prevention of cybercrime.

The homepage of www.hectorsworld.com is where all HW resources can be accessed.

The month and year each component went live on the web is in parentheses. Hector’s World components include:

· www.hectorsworld.com - The website is the heart of this initiative where core content is offered to visitors at no cost. It is designed to be easily used by young children, but packed with information for the teachers and parents who can provide important reinforcement of the cybersafety education messages. (Went live November 2005.)


· Hector Safety Button™ - This free download, empowers children to deal with unwanted content online.

If something on the screen upsets or worries a child, they just click on Hector Protector™, who is swimming in the corner of the computer screen. Hector quickly covers the screen and gives the child positive feedback for taking action, while encouraging them to get help from an adult. (Launched November 2004.)


Below, the Hector's World Safety Button after installation


The file installs a swimming Hector's World™ character in the upper right-hand corner of the computer screen. A child can just click on Hector who then covers the screen with a beautiful underwater scene and gives the child a positive written message for clicking on the character, while encouraging them to get adult help.

· Episodes - There are five cybersafety episodes, all focussed on the theme of privacy and personal information online. Modelling their behaviour on that of Hector Protector and his friends, can help children bridge the gap between what they need to know and what they are capable of understanding. (Pilot released in November 2005, four episodes released May 2007).

· Activities - Puzzles and downloadable colour-in books help reinforce children’s bond with the characters and the cybersafety points in the episodes. (Most in November 2005, four storybooks in May 2007).

· Parent information - Parent information helps caregivers understand how they can maximize the cybersafety learning in the episodes. Parents are encouraged to watch the episodes with their children and discussion points are provided. (Posted May, 2007).

· Classroom lesson plans - Each episode has a sample lesson plan for three different age groups. These are designed for easy integration into classroom curriculum and will complement existing cybersafety programs. (Lesson plan set for pilot episode posted November 2005, lesson plans for episodes 2-5 posted May, 2007).

· Online Teacher’s Forum - Accessed from the website, this free forum (in English) is for teachers from any country to come together and share ideas on how to use HW educational resources creatively in the classroom, and integrate the material into their classroom curriculum.(Went live August 2007, after the deadline for this application).

Hector’s World is continuing to grow. Funding is being sought for more episode sets with themes including cyber-bullying, basic computer security, safe surfing, online identity etc.

In late October 2007, new Mac OS10 and Vista versions of the Hector Safety Button, and a deluxe XP version with extra language and character options were launched. The initial button language selection would include Maori, Samoan, Tongan, French, Spanish and Portuguese.

Hector’s World Ltd (HWL) is a social entrepreneurship venture, guided by its charitable goals to offer quality cybersafety education; any profits will be used to further those goals.

To date, funding has been from: the New Zealand Government’s Digital Strategy and the Ministry of Education, sponsorship from Microsoft NZ and HP, and grants from philanthropic trusts.

HWL is a separate charitable subsidiary of New Zealand’s non-profit cybersafety organization NetSafe, and has produced this educational content in collaboration with New Zealand animation experts Inkspot Digital Ltd.

Guidance on business development has been contributed by The ICEHOUSE, an entrepreneurship ‘incubator’ program financed by the New Zealand Government and affiliated with the University of Auckland.

To be true to its charitable goals, Hector’s World Ltd must offer its core cybersafety content online for free – certainly a challenge as a business model!

A global market is being created with the help of partners in a growing number of countries. These partners include law enforcement agencies, education departments and ministries, and other government agencies and community organizations.

The quality of the animation allows for easy transition to television, and easy substitution of soundtracks in a number of languages, thus helping to reach more people, making a global market more achievable. With the planned international sale of merchandise such as books, DVDs, and classroom materials HWL can both further its education objectives and create a revenue stream with which to sustain this effort and create further content.

About Hector's World™ Limited

Hector's World™ Limited (HWL) is a New Zealand organisation dedicated to keeping young children safe online. They are also a social entrepreneurship venture, because any profits from their activities return to fund more of this education.

HWL is a wholly owned subsidiary of NetSafe, which is an independent non-profit organisation, providing cybersafety education for all New Zealanders - children, parents, schools, community organisations and businesses.