Helping Jessie & Her Friends

Helping Jessie & Her Friends

The first post ever published on our blog discussed the hysteria surrounding Momo, the viral ‘game’ that attempted to coax kids into committing violent acts. You can read the full post here, but we ultimately came to the conclusion that Momo was simply a red herring - albeit a slightly terrifying one.

However, that isn’t to say that there’s merit in addressing ways to combat scary or distressing images or videos that children can come across online. The best way to ensure kids are the safest they can be online, is through educating them with best practice. This will only become increasingly important, as devices become ever more present in the lives of younger and younger children: recent Ofcom research concluded that most British three to four-year-olds are now active users of the Internet.

Companies and charities have identified this too, and are trying to produce materials that aid in the education of ‘Generation Alpha’. We previously had a look at Google’s offering: Be Internet Legends, which sees children play interactive games online, that aim to instil a sense of community and acceptance with the internet users of tomorrow. This is a great way for children to build the foundations of best practice, but doesn’t offer bitesize materials for specific instances of online safety.

Enter Jessie and Friends, a set of educational videos produced by the National Crime Agency.

These three animations follow Jessie, and introduce children to potential issues that they’ll find online. Each video tackles a subject that is roughly age-group specific, but all three animations are applicable to any child who’s started using a device independently of their parents.

Scary Crocs & Online Videos

When people think about social media, three big names come to mind: Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. However, there’s a platform that we often forget to include in the list – YouTube. With over 300 hours of user-created content uploaded every minute, there will inevitably be things that slip through the company’s ‘age-restriction’ filter. The first animation tackles Jessie coming across a scary video after being left alone on a tablet, and an accompanying song, which explains what to do if something makes you feel “funny, in your tummy.” Her dog also has a handlebar moustache, which is a nice touch.

Snapping & Sharing

Social media platforms most prevalent with youngsters are Snapchat and Instagram, which rely heavily on sharing pictures as a form of communication with other users. The influx of these apps has made it difficult for parents to keep up, and has produced all sorts of issues regarding consent and keeping sensitive information safe. We touched briefly on this with our last post, discussing ‘Sharenting’, and the importance of asking permission when sharing images of a young family member. But what about when it’s a child sharing pictures of themselves with friends online? It can be a mind-bending concept for children (and some adults alike), at just how permanent and vast everything is online. So having a resource like Jessie and Friends explain how an image can spread further, and more quickly, than you intend, is a great thing for a child to understand early on.

The Who's Who of Online Gaming

The final issue Jessie and Friends addresses is playing games with strangers. The proliferation of online gaming - with titles such as Fortnite - has thrust children into an online world where adults and children freely mix. This isn’t inherently an issue, but it’s important that kids understand that online personas, and the person behind the screen, don’t always match.

After joining forces with a random player online and sharing sensitive information with them, their new companion betrays the team at a critical moment in the game – scuppering any chance of defeating the boss. This is something that whoever is remotely familiar with online gaming, knows is a regular occurrence. Then, in a plot twist greater than The Usual Suspects, they discover it’s actually their siblings who sabotaged the game. Which is something that people with older siblings, know is also a regular occurrence.

All three of these animations tackle issues in a friendly, fun and informative way. Our emphasis on educational tools like this simply reflects our desire to ensure kids have the best framework for exploring the online world, and enjoying everything it has to offer. Utilising short animations like these is a great way to initiate conversations in classrooms, or at home. If you'd like to stay up-to-date with information on online safety news and safeguarding tools, follow the National Crime Agency and Studysafe on Twitter.