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Stories: Children, Community, Future

Swipe Safe: Success from changing the educational approach to children in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic

Due to the recent outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, many children have been subjected to quarantine, making their daily activities restricted to physical rooms. Under such circumstances, the Internet has become a “daily friend” of these children. Thanks to the advance of the Internet, children can keep up with lessons through distance learning while ensuring them a study-life balance with a variety of entertainment forms. Hence, it is understandable that the average time of children using the Internet during this period has gone up significantly. This increase is sometimes accompanied by a lack of supervision and guidance from parents/guardians, which subsequently leads to problems of cyber-attacks. Thereby, the whole Community is urgently required to design programs in order to improve the effectiveness of Internet use for children, thus ensuring a healthy online environment for them.

The “Swipe Safe” project was initiated by ChildFund Vietnam in 2017. After the success of the first three years, the project will go through the 2nd phase (2021-2024) and be carried out in three cities and districts of Bac Kan, Cao Bang and Hoa Binh provinces. In the first phase of the project, training sessions were mainly delivered in traditional face-to-face format. Given the surge in children infected with the coronavirus or had close contact with infected people and going through quarantine in project areas, Online Safety Specialists of ChildFund Vietnam need to tackle the question: “Which is the most effective and captivating way to provide children with online safety training during quarantine periods?”.

To answer the above-mentioned question, the Online Safety team researched and discovered an online teaching curriculum on online safety published by Google. This curriculum includes detailed lessons on specialized content, such as information security, setting passwords for accounts, sharing information, etc. Besides, students are also transformed into different characters, which enable them to compete and try to get the highest score by participating in answering questions tailored to each lesson.

Capitalizing on this platform, along with animated videos published by ChildFund Vietnam, the “Swipe Safe” project has developed training courses in which children will be informed about online safety knowledge, with the format being competitions. Children will compete to answer questions about the content they have learned after each lecture to attain the highest ranking. This form of competition really brought a sense of excitement and enthusiasm within every child, because every child wants to have the highest score to become the champion.

The project has achieved initial successes in raising children’s general awareness about online safety. Two training courses were carried out from 13 – 17 December, 2021 with the participation of 40 students from grades 6-7 who were in quarantine at that time. The students fully participated in all 4 training sessions with an enthusiastic spirit. Ms. Nga, the mother of a sixth grader, shared her thoughts: “At first, I thought that my child would only attend 1-2 sessions because this is not a mandatory course. However, in the next day, my child tirelessly reminded me to let her eat dinner early so that she could attend class on time.”

The results of a survey with 24 children participating in the program indicate that 79% of children prefer this way of learning to other online learning methods, 83% of children find the provided knowledge very useful. Besides, 92% of children said they will know how to react if they encounter cyber-attacks and 83% are willing to attend if there are similar courses. Ms. Nga added: “I find that the educational method that ChildFund Vietnam has applied is very suitable, helping the children to relax but still absorb useful knowledge.”

It can be seen that, after implementing two online training courses on Online Safety in the form of learning through playing, the children have acquired a lot of useful knowledge in an excited and vibrant way. The difficult question for the project “Swipe Safe” has been partially answered, motivating the team to further improve the project for future activities.

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