Like many adults my age, I grew up reading the Garfield comics in the newspaper or watching Garfield cartoons on TV. But these days Garfield can also be found online. And he's talking about Cyber Safety! But why?
But research done by the Center for Cyber Safety and Education™ (the Center) shows that there is a huge gap between what children KNOW they should be doing online and what they are ACTUALLY doing. Despite having received internet safety information, they are still taking risks.
To expand parents’ and educators’ toolkit for teaching children to protect themselves online, the Center started Garfield’s Cyber Safety Adventures, and posts online Garfield cyber safety lessons.
The second online comic “Pause Before You Post!, show Garfield’s pal, Nermal, navigating the risks of sharing too much personal information online. There's an interactive cartoon and comic book end with a quiz, which allows kids to test and apply what they’ve learned.
To learn more about how Garfield is tackling the issue of Cyber Safety (instead of snack), I interviewed Jim Davis, the creator of Garfield.
Onica (MommyFactor): How did the partnership with Center for Cyber Safety happen? What appeal to him to lead his character to the cause?
Jim Davis: Garfield has an educational website, www.professorgarfield.org. When the folks at (ISC)2 and the Center discovered this, they thought we might make good partners to help deliver their message that kids need to be aware of the right and wrong way to do things online. It felt like the right thing for Garfield to do.
Garfield was “born” in 1978, before the internet, so we had to find our way through the maze of the internet, too, and we learned some important lessons about things we needed to do on our own website, www.garfield.com, to keep kids safe there, too.
Onica (MommyFactor): What changes were made to the Garfield comic to fit a cyber message?
Jim Davis: We didn’t have to change Garfield’s personality. He stays true to character, but Garfield is a smart cat, and he knows when something doesn’t quite smell right. Garfield helps focus the message and simplifies the material for both kids and adults. It’s a serious subject, but Garfield presents it in a form that is understandable.
Onica (MommyFactor): Why do you think Garfield is relatable to kid growing up in the digital age?
Jim Davis: Garfield did start out as an analog cat, but he quickly embraced the digital world. I think Garfield is relatable because he’s funny, and that works in just about any medium.
Onica (MommyFactor): Any new characters being developed for the safety message?
Jim Davis: Yes, we’ve introduced a number of new characters. Dr. Cybrina is the cybersecurity authority, and she has all the solutions. Some of the other characters, like CheeseCat12, were brought in to show kids what NOT to do!
Thanks to Jim Davis for answering my questions!
Watch this video about how Garfield Joins Center for Cyber Safety and Education Team
The Garfield materials aim to put cyber safety messages in a context kids in 1st through 6th grade can relate to, understand and retain. The third lesson, due out in April, will address online etiquette. Subsequent lessons will address cyberbullying, downloading movies and music, and more.
In collaboration with Paws, Inc., the Center has been developing a series of cartoons, comic books, posters, trading cards, stickers, and other materials to help educators and parents teach children how to become responsible digital citizens.
The Garfield partnership is part of the Center’s latest enhancement to its Safe and Secure Online program. Safe and Secure Online offers tips and resources to children, parents, educators and seniors that draw from the expertise of (ISC)2 members, the pre-eminent cybersecurity experts in the world.
To learn more, visit - www.SafeAndSecureOnline.org