We have been working with the CyGen team for nearly a year now, since they first visited Preston Hedges to run a logo competition for the project in the summer of 2017. Since then, they have been working with the children in Year 5 to run a range of different activities, listening to their views through workshops and focus groups, and working with them to interview parents and teachers. As one of the teachers being interviewed, it was an interesting experience to be on the other side but the professionalism from the team was outstanding and they held themselves impeccably.

On the event day we arrived by coach and were the first into lunch. The children were pleased with their conference bags (and the pudding!). They then ran different workshops with members of the CyGen team for members of the public, academics and professionals – a great experience for them and an opportunity to share the hard work that they have put into the project. Some of the children also acted as reporters, taking photos and videos of sessions. A question and answer session hosted by Preston Hedges children with members of the CyGen team took a lot of confidence but showed their understanding of the topics and motivation for being part of the project. The children had a brilliant day and were filmed to go on BBC Look East on the night of the event. You can see the feature on our School webpage here.

Trafford Ayres, Year 5 teacher and CyGen liaison, Preston Hedges School

The CyGen team have been keen to talk to parents and children who participated in the event, to hear their views about the experience. Here, one of the UK CyGen co-researchers, Macey, and her mum, Emma, talk to Dr Michelle Pyer about their experiences.

First, Michelle asked Macey and Emma why they wanted to be involved in CyGen. Here’s what they said:

Macey: I just think it’s really nice to help other people.

Emma:  I thought it would help (Macey) learn about safety online, versus just being told. It’s like anything, if you’re actually in it and participating I think you learn more, so it would make her more aware. [Macey] has never once been ‘oh no, not CyGen again’, it’s always been ‘Yes! We’re doing this in school today’. And that’s the thing though, I think that is the way to make them learn and understand, is for them to do it.

Macey and her mum also told Michelle about what they have learnt from taking part in the project. This included finding about PEGI ratings (the ratings that are used to inform children and parents about the suitability of a game for certain age groups).

Macey: I think I have learnt a little bit more. Sometimes I don’t really take as much care as I should, so I learnt about the reasons to…I’ve learnt about PEGI ratings, I didn’t know what PEGI ratings were before. We did them at school after we learnt about them in CyGen.

Emma: Before I went to the conference, and I went into the workshop where the kids talked, I have to say I’m guilty of not paying attention to stuff like that. I think you do with movies, I don’t know why Apps and computer stuff is different. It hadn’t really crossed my mind to look at it for Apps and things.

Next Macey and Emma talked about what it was like to take part in the ME event:

Macey: Probably the best bit was when we did the author workshop…We read different books and we had to write our favourite character that would help children and give the book a rating. It was a really helpful day where all the parents got told about e-safety to help keep their kids safe online.

Emma: I think the bit that I found the most interesting was seeing the kids….It was very informative in hearing about what they’ve done; obviously you’re hearing about it from the kids’ perspective… Hearing it from the kids, you actually know the kids know what’s going on and understand it. Whereas if you’ve just got an adult there telling you about it, that doesn’t mean it necessarily impacts on the kids. So to hear and see it from the kids’ perspective, to hear it from them, them teaching the parents, I think re-instils it in them.

 

I have worked in mental health providing psychological interventions to people experiencing emotional distress for over 25 years. More recently I have been involved with the University of Northampton as a trainer of staff working in schools. Many teachers and support staff are hungry to learn strategies aimed at supporting children and young people with mental health difficulties.

I would estimate that at least half of the adults I have worked with are victims of bullying and or abuse (physical/sexual). The schools I work with are increasingly concerned about the threats associated with on- line behaviour.

I attended the CyGen conference and found myself being enthralled by the work taking place in this crucial area. Many of the presentations resonated with my experiences as a therapist, as a father and as a supporter of staff working in schools. Whilst we should never forget about the many cyber benefits gained by children and young people I was struck by the worrying phenomenon of inescapability that means that mistakes can return to haunt, and bullies can now follow children home, on their telephones, their tablets and their lap top computers.

My take-home reflection, however was linked to the importance of parents, teachers, and caring adults listening to their own internal advisor. If we are uncomfortable about children’s behaviour or on -line threats we must be curious, we must find the time and we must check out whether children and young people are being made vulnerable to exploitation, bullying or abuse. A great day at the CyGen conference.

Dr Mike Scanlan – Mental Health Consultant &

Chair: CyGen Professional Advisory Group

My talk at the CyGen conference focused upon the adults and how we risk undermining messages about digital responsibility arguments by our own use of social media and the growth of privacy-intrusive programming. However, what struck me most about the event – and the project itself – was the input of the children.  I particularly enjoyed attending an inspiring breakout session where the children talked about how they interviewed parents and teachers about online safety, using a PowerPoint presentation which they had prepared themselves.  I learned a lot from this partnership approach that I would like to use in my further research.

Marion Oswald, Senior Fellow in Law, University of Winchester

Hearing children’s ‘voices’ is a phrase often used in research with children but it’s rare for children to be genuinely involved in developing educational tools such as children’s safety ‘apps’, as they are doing in CyGen. On 6th February 2018, in CyGen’s conference we witnessed first-hand children’s collaborative work with international research partners from England, Belgium, Denmark and Greece. We also heard about children’s and parents’ worries about children going online and the many ways that adults are unintentionally undermining children’s privacy through, for example, uploading photos of children to social media. What came across strongly during the day was the importance of inter-generational discussions and adults reflecting on their role in keeping children safe through listening to children’s worries, making space for disclosures, and thinking about children’s privacy now and in the longer term.

Dr Hayley Davies, Lecturer in Childhood Studies, University of Leeds

The English Multiplier Event, which took place in Northampton on the 6th of February 2018, was a great success. Presentations by international and local speakers were followed by academics and children involved in CyGen. Workshops delivered by the pupils with members of the CyGen team informed attendees about the methods being used in the project, and the ways that children in the UK have worked on the project. Later in the week, the Greek team visited Preston Hedges School and had a tour from the CyGen children, with introductions to teachers and other staff. While at the school, the Greek team had the chance and opportunity to share views on the different cultural aspects of the two countries (England-Greece). George also played a game of ‘Simon Says’ with the children which was received positively and the children enjoyed. The whole experience has left the team feeling welcomed and energized, ready to continue with the project.

George Tallaros, George Tsoukalas and Angeliki Anagnostopoulou

Greek CyGen team