To understand children’s mental models of online privacy, I first conducted a user study of children and parents’ perceptions of mobile threats.
I identified that children have four conceptual models about online privacy based on their perceptions of physical privacy and safety.
To be alone
To hide secrets or things
To not talk to strangers
To keep things to yourself
Furthermore, their perceived threats surrounding mobile device use are different than the threats parents perceived to be faced by children. These results helped to inform the design of the ebook.
I aimed to gently introduce online privacy concepts to children without technical and frightening details and to integrate the educational content into the narrative seamlessly. The interactive ebook format supports children’s learning by adult instruction and increases engagement.
Cyberheroes (a play on superheroes) must maintain their secret identities on the Internet. Cyberheroes have “cyberpowers” that are privacy-related lessons about personal information, online chatting, location sharing, cyberbullying, and passwords. Due to the popularity of the superhero genre, the story easily resonates with children and make the concept of privacy easy to understand.
I designed the characters to appeal to children who are similar to them. Ally and Bobby are siblings who represent the age spectrum of the target audience. I iterated the character design and storyboards after receiving feedback from other graphic designers and elementary school teachers.
I created the illustrations for Cyberheroes in Adobe Illustrator using a Wacom Intuos Graphics Pen and Touch tablet. The fantasy storybook illustration style is reminiscent of printed children’s picture books.
Cyberheroes was evaluated with 22 children aged seven to nine and their parents that included usability testing and privacy knowledge and behaviour assessments pre/post-reading and one week later.
The ebook improved children’s understanding of online privacy and promoted privacy-conscious behaviour. Furthermore, Cyberheroes fostered child-parent discussions about online privacy and led to extended learning.
Multimedia is an effective approach to improving knowledge retention and behaviour. Children’s privacy and security educational tools should support co-use with parents and need to take into consideration families’ sensitivities towards exposing children to serious topics.
If you are interested to learn more about the research behind Cyberheroes, you can read our papers.
Leah Zhang-Kennedy, Yomna Abdelaziz, and Sonia Chiasson. (2017) Cyberheroes: The Design and Evaluation of an Interactive Ebook to Educate Children about Online Privacy. International Journal of Child-Computer Interaction (IJCCI), Elsevier.
Leah Zhang-Kennedy, Christine Mekhail, Yomna Abdelaziz, and Sonia Chiasson. (2016) From Nosy Little Brothers to Stranger-Danger: Children and Parents’ Perception of Mobile Threats. In Interaction Design and Children (IDC), ACM.
This project was funded by the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada (OPC) from April 2015 to March 2016; the views expressed herein are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect those of the OPC.