The project, ‘Maddie is online’ @MaddiesOnline, includes online cartoon animations and storytelling resources, specially created for and with young people aged 9 – 12, that centre around the everyday life of a fictitious pre-teen girl called Maddie, who experiences troubles online.
‘Maddie is online’, has been rolled out to schools in Scotland and offers workshops on the ethics of online safety and security, ethical hacking and video gaming.
The project is funded by the Scottish Government with £11,086 in funding and supported by the Digital Xtra Fund.
Project lead, Dr Konstantina Martzoukou, an Associate Professor from RGU’s School of Creative and Cultural Business, explains: “We wanted to create resources to engage young people, particularly pre-teen children, to manage their digital lives. Unfortunately, many young people navigate daily challenges such as online bullying, personal security and managing their online reputation. Our resources empower young people so that they can develop technical and behavioural strategies to safeguard themselves online.”
A competition for school children in S1 & S2 has been created as part of the project, where young people were asked to create a short story, of around 500 words, on the ‘Ethics of online safety and security’. Five stories have been shortlisted for the final from three schools will be developed into animations for the ‘Maddie is online’ series, with the winner announced in the spring.
The shortlist includes entries from Ellon Academy with a story entitled ‘Friend Finder’, two stories from Hazlehead Academy entitled ‘Lucy the Influencer’ and ‘Violet’ and two stories from St Andrew's and St Bride's High School in East Kilbride, entitled ‘The Yolo Classroom’ and ‘The Yphone Scam.’
Principal Teacher for Digital Learning at Ellon Academy, Ewan Armstrong, said: “Our pupils have really engaged with ‘Maddie is online’ and put some fantastic thinking into the development of their story. The story they chose is very mature in its contents whilst also unfortunately being very real for many children; befriending people online in apps/on websites who turn out to not be who they thought they were.
"Our pupils have handled this in very sensitive ways, showing great maturity and creativity in their thinking. They have fully engaged with the ethos of the topic and considered carefully how the character of Maddie could in fact represent many of their peers.
“Our five amazing Ellon Academy pupils go away from this competition with greater digital resilience, increased confidence in digital/online safety & security, and with the knowledge that they have helped to promote online safety & security within the rural northeast of Scotland.”
Chief Executive Officer for the UK’s School and Public Health Nurses Association, Sharon White OBE added: “This is a much-needed resource for our school aged children who are subject to increasing online abuse and misinformation. Using animations and cartoons built on their self-identified needs is a fabulous example of co-production and, as such, much more likely to help empower them in making safer online decisions.”