Happy Healthy Harold starts teaching cybersafety to children

The organisation behind Australian primary school icon Happy Healthy Harold will add cybersafety to its teaching modules next month, having identified it as a significant part of education for children.

Life Education Australia, better known for its mobile drug and health education trailer that visits primary schools with Happy Healthy Harold, has introduced cybersafety into its program.

Earlier this year, McAfee partnered with Life Education Australia (PDF) as part of its move to educate primary school children about safety online.

Adjunct professor Dr Helen McGrath of RMIT University's School of Education was also engaged by Life Education, putting together a literature review (PDF) of current cybersafety issues surrounding educating children and young adolescents. Her work forms part of the basis for the development of the module.

The new module, called bCyberwise, aims to educate upper primary school students on how to stay safe online and help build appropriate online communication skills. Some of the issues that McGrath identified include the use of digital media and how it can be used for bullying; inappropriate communication, such as "sexting"; exposure to inappropriate advertising or adult material; and financial scams.

Tackling these issues, the module will use videos, discussion, problem solving, and role play to help children learn and practice how to be good citizens online.

Although Life Education Australia is a not-for-profit organisation that runs separately to government-run education programs, development of the new module will also provide support for the Australian government's own National Safe Schools Framework. This framework sets the basis for creating safer school communities, many of which are arguably beginning to, or already have, an online presence.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard, who launched the new module today, endorsed the initiative, saying, "we've got to teach our kids about new dangers in a new environment in the cyber world."

From February 4, the module will be delivered in over 3,200 schools across Australia. Last year, Life Education reached 620,000 students through its existing program.