Topics of the games
For example, violent, racist, hateful information and communication. Misinformation, age-inappropriate marketing practices.
For example, communicating with strangers on the internet, sharing your data with strangers and engaging in hostile behaviour, unwanted or excessive surveillance.
For example, bullying, hostile communication, trolling, exclusion, shaming and harmful peer pressure. This can originate from peers as well as from the child.
For example, phishing, hacking, extortion, filter bubbles, micro-targeted marketing, deceptive techniques to shape purchasing decisions.
What is it?
In Estonia and elsewhere in Europe, 5-10 year olds’ favourite online activities are watching videos, playing online games and interacting on platforms, many of which are designed to be “age-blind”.
This means that even if children try to use online content responsibly, they are subject to exactly the same rules as adults on the internet, the complexity of which makes them vulnerable to various scams, influence techniques, misinformation and other risks due to their limited knowledge and life experience.
For example, it is not only visibly violent or sexually explicit material that puts children at risk on the internet today, but the spread of misinformation is a growing problem, influencing both children’s values and potentially their decisions outside the internet.
What is it?
Contact risks are in particular the risk of an adult, known or unknown to the child, attempting to contact the child, or a situation where the child has already engaged in a potentially dangerous interaction with an adult.
This includes (sexual) harassment, stalking, hateful behaviour, baiting for sexual abuse, extortion of money or favours by threatening to share photos or videos of the child, and sharing child sexual abuse material.
What is it?
Conduct-related risks refer to situations where a child is a witness, participant, or victim of potentially dangerous behavior.
This may include bullying, group hostile activities, trolling, sending sexual messages, pressuring, harassment, or exposure to harmful online communities (e.g. self-harm or eating disorder groups).
Risky practices usually arise in interactions with peers, and the child may not be on an equal status with peers.
What is it?
The basics of game design
First, the activity’s purpose must be clear to both the game leader and the children. All children should be able to participate in age-appropriate games from start to finish, regardless of their previous exposure to the internet. Given the age of the children and the abstract nature of the risks of the internet, teaching should use clear and relevant examples for children in the form of physical objects, pictures, and texts. Children should be given a reasonable degree of autonomy in learning through play, allowing them to make choices and control their actions in situations that do not change how the game works, such as when forming teams. As internet usage of popular games and social networking platforms may vary from region to region among children of the same age, play activities should allow children to learn from each other through peer learning.
A trusting and supportive environment must be created to encourage the sharing of ideas, with a non-judgmental and positive attitude towards children’s online experiences from the adult in charge of the game. Games should offer a reasonable amount of challenge, focusing on encouraging cooperation and group bonding. The lesson plan should include activities that alternate between physical and mental stimulation to support children’s learning and keep them interested. Games could, therefore, vary in tempo and form. To reinforce learning, games could include questions and activities to help children reflect, consolidate, and ideally apply their knowledge.
While children love to hear stories about each other’s mishaps, some of them may see negative experiences as exciting adventures to try out for themselves. So the adult supervising the game should monitor the emotions that children’s stories evoke in each other and guide the conversation toward safe behavior.
That materials and activities developing digital media literacy should not be stereotyping, moralising or victim-blaming, careful attention must be paid to the tone of the final message. Ending a fun play session with an abrupt reprimand or outright scolding ruins the whole memory of the game.
Very serious topics such as harassment, stalking or grooming for sexual abuse are not suitable for playful situations, if only because active activities should offer appealing aspects for everyone, which dealing with such topics certainly does not. Moreover, games take the seriousness out of very dangerous subjects.
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