Picture books for Safer Internet Day
Tuesday 9th February 2021 is Safer Internet Day. Here are three brilliant books by Jeanne Willis and Tony Ross, ideal for educating young people about this subject. Using traditional fairy tales and their characters, these stories explain the dangers of oversharing, making friends online and cyberbullying in a child-friendly and entertaining way.
Goldilocks and the Three Bears is retold for the digital generation. Obsessed with attracting and entertaining Instagram followers, Goldilocks breaks into the three bears' home. The images she posts of her mischief lead the bears and the police to her door. Even after Goldilocks makes amends for her crime, "still it's everyone's belief that she's a horrid porridge thief who doesn't have a single friend."
#Goldilocks shows the dangers of posting things online about which you might be ashamed at a later point. It also explores why we shouldn't look for validation from social media. The story reinforces the importance of protecting your reputation by stressing how everything lives forever on the internet. The last line, urging readers to "think twice" before they "send," is excellent advice for adults as well as children.
In this story, Chicken Licken is reimagined as a cautionary tale about catfishing. Instead of thinking the sky is falling in, a naive little chicken called Chick mistakenly believes they have found "the perfect chum." online. After using the farmer's laptop for a series of shopping sprees (the perplexed farmer blames his wife), Chick turns to technology to find a friend.
When Chick "put her photograph online, she gave her name and age. CLICK! Another chick appeared upon the friendship page." Chick ventures off to the woods alone to meet their new pal in real life "without telling Dad or Mum." The story concludes with an image of a sinister fox who is revealed as the true identity of Chick's internet friend. Although this allegory is told comically, I actually got chills when I saw the fox as he reflects a very real threat. This is a fantastic book for making children aware of the dangers that may be lurking online and the need for responsible behaviour (offline too!).
This plays with the concept of "trolling" and uses the traditional tale of the Three Billy Goats Gruff as a framework to highlight the devastating impact of cyberbullying. Two goats hear about a troll guarding a bridge and decide this "bully" needs to learn a lesson. They send cruel and anonymous text messages to a tiny troll they've never even met. The goats eventually learn how much they have upset her and that even trolls have feelings.
The goats target the troll for their own amusement and aren't aware that their texts are abusive. They think they were confronting a horrible beast, but the goats are the ones behaving like monsters. This is a brilliant story for showing how easy it is to hurt someone, whether intentional or not, and for encouraging children to consider the effects of their actions.
All of these brilliant picture books are published by Andersen Press and teaching resources for each title are available from the publisher's website.
Jeanne Willis and Tony Ross have recently released a new book to create awareness of the potential side effects of smartphones and too much screen time. This is called Old MacDonald had a Phone. I haven't seen it yet, but it looks and sounds as wonderful as the rest of this series. View Old MacDonald Had a Phone on the Andersen Press website