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Better online safety for children just a few clicks away

News Page 25th February 2020

Improving how children manage their safety online is a few clicks or finger taps away thanks to a new University backed app designed by children themselves.

CyGen is an online app with cartoon characters aimed at children aged 8-13. The characters take them through scenarios that present the sort of situations children might find themselves facing online, including the associated challenges and opportunities.

The scenarios include what to do when pictures have been accidentally shared on a social networking app, how to post comments that are kind and respectful to others and whether information online is from a trustworthy source or not.

By working through the scenarios – either on their own, with their parents or as part of school lessons – children’s digital skills will be further developed by CyGen, supporting informed and safer online experiences.

Screenshot of the CyGen app

More than nine in ten (92%) children aged 5-15 use online-based systems. Recent research suggests that 50% of 10-year olds have their own smartphone and a quarter of ten-year olds claim to have a social media profile.

CyGen was funded by Erasmus+ and co-developed by teams at the University of Northampton, University of Huddersfield, children and teachers from schools in the UK – including Preston Hedge’s Primary School, Northampton – and partner organisations in Belgium, Denmark and Greece.*

Macey Huskin and her mother Emma were involved in developing CyGen.

Macey said: “I have learnt more since using CyGen. Before, I didn’t really take as much care online as I should so I learnt about the reasons why this was important. We learnt more about this at school after we learnt about it with CyGen.”

Emma added: “I think what helps with CyGen is that children learn themselves about safety online, rather than just being told about it. It’s like anything, if you’re actually in it and participating, you learn more. It has definitely made Macey more aware because of this.

“When she was using it, Macey never once said ‘Oh no, not CyGen again’, she always said ‘Yes! We’re doing this in school today’. And that’s the thing, the way to make them learn and understand is for them to use the app and enjoy using it.”

Image of Macey and Emma who took helped develop the CyGen app

University of Northampton’s Senior Researcher Dr Michelle Pyer was part of the CyGen team: “Charting a safe course through the complex atlas that is the online world is a challenging voyage even for adults. We wanted to work with children to find out about their experiences, and support them to come up with something that they thought would help others their age.

“The webapp itself is just one of the outputs – we’ve also created useful info for parents and teachers to help them share key messages at home and in school.”

To use the CyGen app.

To access the supporting resources.

Notes

*Erasmus+ is the European Union’s (EU) programme for education, training, youth and sport. In the UK, the programme is managed by the Erasmus+ UK National Agency, a partnership between the British Council and Ecorys UK. CyGen has been funded as part of Erasmus+ Key Action 2 Strategic Partnerships for Higher Education.

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