In today's digital age, where technology integrates into our lives, safeguarding the online journey of children becomes of great importance. This urgency doesn't arise alone from the fact that children will inevitably one day engage in digital activities, but rather because being online is a form of "traffic" they will eventually navigate in one way or another.
The challenge lies in preparing them for this journey in a manner that is neither intimidating nor negative. Instead, the approach should empower children, showing them that they can confidently take the reins of their digital lives in a positive and proactive way.
This preparation should avoid creating a division between those who possess the skills to navigate the digital landscape and those who might become passive consumers or even potential targets. To bridge this gap and ensure that all children have the tools and knowledge to thrive also in the digital world, it's imperative to explore how teachers and students can be effectively onboarded into this topic in a manner that aligns with their age and development.
Stop, Slow & Go!
Enter the Stop, Slow & Go project by Protect Children (Suojellaan Lapsia ry.), a non governmental organization based in Finland. This initiative doesn't just recognize the need for digital safety education; it excels in execution. With a presence in over 140 locations and a staggering participation of more than 9,000 children across Finland, this project's online workshops are making significant strides in digital safety education.
This program is not solely about teaching children to navigate the digital landscape; it's about equipping them to do so with confidence, positivity, and proactiveness. Through these innovative workshops, relatable Fun Learning characters, and dedicated educators, the Stop, Slow & Go project is helping the next generation to be well-prepared.
These remote workshops are designed to educate children about digital safety in a fun and interactive manner. What sets them apart is their accessibility. Participants can easily join these workshops online, making them convenient and inclusive.
Photo: Workshop Leader Maria Marin opening one of the morning sessions.
Motivation behind the Stop, Slow & Go Campaign
We asked Katariina Leivo, who is Senior Specialist, CBT Therapist at the NGO Protect Children, about the reasons for creating such a program in the first place. She gives us some background: “At the heart of the campaign lies a deep concern for the vulnerability of children in the digital environments. It recognizes that in today's fast-paced digital space, children need more than just parental controls. They need the knowledge and skills to navigate the online environments safely. Importantly, the campaign advocates for early intervention, emphasizing that digital literacy and safety education should commence already in early childhood.”
Teacher and Student Feedback
Teachers who have participated in these workshops have offered unanimously positive feedback. They appreciate the engaging discussions that these workshops ignite. Through simple but thought-provoking activities, the workshops stimulate critical thinking and discussions about online safety, as evidenced by the enthusiastic testimonials from educators.
The honest testament to the workshops' success, however, comes from the students themselves. The young participants have shown remarkable engagement in the discussions and activities, revealing true interest in understanding the digital world better.
Katariina emphasizes that the Stop, Slow & Go project has developed practical and easy-to-follow materials – also to be used outside the online workshops. These resources cater to children, families, and educators. These materials are not born in isolation; they are meticulously researched and created in collaboration with professionals. Materials aimed at children are pilot-tested, ensuring their effectiveness.
Image: From the Stop, Slow & Go program – find the free easy-to-use resources from the Protect Children website.
The Role of the Kip Crew
A key element in all the materials as well as the workshops is the Kip Crew. Our charming Fun Learning characters Tuka, Maco, Soca, and Waaba, serve as inspiration for both children and educators. Their presence is not merely decorative; it's educational magic.
The Kip Crew operates as relatable guides of complex concepts, including emotions and safety. They effectively bridge the gap between abstract ideas and real-life understanding, making the learning experience engaging and comprehensible. In other words: Fun Learning!
What's particularly impactful is the diversity and strength embodied by each member of the Kip Crew, as representatives of various backgrounds, personalities, and abilities. Their differences are not sources of division but rather catalysts for learning together.
Workshop Leader Maria Marin, who herself is a classroom teacher, shares that “In fact, during one workshop, a young participant exclaimed excitedly that Maco was ‘just like him,’ illustrating how the characters resonate deeply with children, helping them see themselves as active participants in their digital journey.”
The Kip Crew's vibrant personalities and relatable traits build an experience where children not only gain knowledge but develop empathy, understanding, and a strong sense of self-assuredness.
As the Workshop Coordinator Katariina Leivo from Protect Children is responsible for the technical smoothness of the online experience and she smiling tells us how the workshops often begin with a delightful sense of chaos, as many children join with they microphones on, and with loud excitement in the air; “This initial enthusiasm, and the chatter from children all over the country, creates a lively and spirited atmosphere. Remarkably, this initial chaotic soundscape eventually transforms into an effective and engaging learning session.”
Continuation of Project in Schools
The project's influence continues in the schools. Many have chosen to incorporate the project materials and activities into their curriculum, ensuring that the learning doesn't stop after the workshops. Teachers who have previously participated return with new groups of students, a clear testament to the project's effectiveness and sustainability in school settings.
Advantages of Remote Workshops
We asked Katariina Leivo what inspired Protect Children to organize online workshops in addition to the materials that are easy-to-use even without the complementary workshop experience, “Remote workshops offer a unique advantage – they allow participation from children in various locations, ensuring accessibility to even the most remote areas. They are cost-effective, eliminating the need for extensive physical resources and travel. This approach enables the widespread dissemination of crucial knowledge and skills.”
Children's Creativity and Pride
One of the most heartwarming aspects of these workshops is the creativity and pride displayed by the children. They often create and proudly present their own digital traffic lights, showcasing their understanding of online safety. These tangible displays underscore the impact of the workshops on children's learning and their growing confidence.
Stop, Slow & Go is not just about teaching children to navigate the digital world; it's about empowering them to do so with confidence, knowledge, and creativity.
We at Fun Academy are so proud to be part of Stop, Slow & Go, and we hope it will bring great Fun Learning experiences to many children – all over the world! Be sure to check out the tried and tested materials that you can find free of charge here! More "online road safety" resources for you to look up and use here.
Photo credits: Protect Children (Suojellaan Lapsia ry.) and Fun Academy album