Wednesday, December 21, 2022

Parenting Pointers: Cyber Legends and Cyberbullying


  • 34% of kids in the US have experienced cyberbullying at least once.
  • Cyberbullying victims are 1.9 times more likely to commit suicide.
  • 68% of those have experienced mental health issues.
  • 33% of teenagers have sent explicit images or text to someone
  • Only 38% of cyberbullying victims are willing to admit it to their parents.

Cyber Legends, with the support of Microsoft, Rogers and others has just introduced a free game for schools and parents across North America designed to teach kids in grades 1-8 how to be safe when they’re online. It also teaches about predators, fraud, safe social media behaviors, inappropriate material,  and more

The goal is to create a space to help children learn to stay safe online while keeping parents (and teachers) closely involved. Being involved in their child’s online safety education provides parents comfort and enables open communication about current and future online activities and experiences they may engage in. Most kids have never been taught how to be safe online (or to be empathetic in general).

Parents should use the free program to teach their own kids and/or encourage their schools to adopt this immediately. I had a chance to learn more in this interview.

Why is it important for people to be aware of how prevalent cyberbullying is?

Being aware of the prevalence of cyberbullying is important for 3 key reasons: 


1) Cyberbullying leads to significant social problems like teen suicide and depression. Unless personally impacted, many people still have no clue about what cyberbullying looks like in real life, and how high the stakes are when a child is being victimized online. This is what happened to both Megan Meier and Amanda Todd, who both died by suicide after being cyberbullied. 


2) If understood, cyberbullying can be prevented. A few strategies include: monitoring children’s online activities, cultivating a close connection within the family (to ensure that children will come to their caregivers with issues they encounter online), and explicitly teaching kids what cyberbullying is so they can identify and respond if they (or their friends) encounter issues. At school, the more caring the atmosphere is (“the degree to which students believe that adults and peers in the school care about their learning, as well as about them as individuals,” the lower the levels of bullying and cyberbullying. [Source: Overview of Approaches to Address Bullying and Cyberbullying]


3) When addressed responsibly, cyberbullying can be an opportunity to help children learn about empathy and how to handle conflict, which we believe are some very valuable life skills. 



What is the link between cyberbullying and mental health?

Research shows that cyberbullying has an extremely negative effect on the mental health, with links to low self-esteem, depression, and suicide [Source: Cyberbullying and Children and Young People's Mental Health: A Systematic Map of Systematic Reviews]



How can games be effective tools at helping prevent cyberbullying?

Children’s natural ability to learn comes from play. When learning is fun, it’s much more engaging. This type of teaching strategy is called game-based learning and it’s becoming more and more prevalent. 


Research is showing that educational video games are even more powerful for learning than expected: “Results show that the SG led to improvement in players’ knowledge, assessed with different metrics. Moreover, analysis of repeated play shows that participants improved their in-game safety behavior over time.” – [Source: Learning Safety Through Public Serious Games: A Study of "Prepare for Impact" on a Very Large, International Sample of Players]


Cyber Legends offers an educational cyber safety video game, as well as ready-to-go lesson plans for teachers. Both can be used (hand in hand) in the classroom by teachers, for a minimal fee. The video game can be incorporated into classroom learning – by teachers, who can sign up students, as well as at home by either kids (with permission from their parents) or parents. 



What sets Cyber Legends apart from other prevention efforts?

Cyber Legends is scalable, accessible and personalized for learners in and out of school.  We focus on the three main problems schools have in achieving cyber safe education.

  1. Teacher upskilling

a.             Teachers have not been taught how to teach cyber safety and need professional development resources to help them feel comfortable with the new topics.

  1. Curriculum aligned, teachable teaching resources.

a.             Teaching resources in a technical field can be overwhelming for both teachers and students.  We work with great teachers and Phd’s that have years of experience creating resources that are age appropriate, fun and easy to use in the classroom.

  1. Trackable education that can happen out of school hours

a.             There is no additional time in the day for teachers to add cyber safety education to their existing curriculum.  Every minute of every school day has already been assigned.  In order for a child to become competent with cyber safety they need to be able to learn outside of school hours.  We accomplish this with the Cyber Legends open world video game that allows teachers to assign learning quests within the game that children can play and learn at home.  


In addition,  At Cyber Legends, many of us are parents ourselves. We believe keeping kids safe online is a team effort, and so our products are built around inclusivity: we want to get kids, parents and teachers involved in the learning process. Along the way we want to have fun and make the world more safe, kind and compassionate. 

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