4 minute read

Cyber Savvy Mom

‘Real talk’ from kids on Internet and technology use

As children’s screen time increases, new series teaches safe tech use from their perspective

Short videos starring a cast of young internet users show viewers the different ways they can use smartphones - from catching up with grandparents to separating fact from fiction on the web - in Search It Up!



The internet is central to just about every child’s life now that COVID-19 has recentered education around remote learning arrangements. For some families, the web was already a big part of their day. But for others, the need to rely on the internet has been a massive adjustment.

As the internet becomes increasingly key to children’s education and play, public media producer GBH has a new program called Search It Up!, a lighthearted digital miniseries that teaches healthy screen time skills from everyday kids’ perspectives.

The series features nine short videos starring a cast of young internet users that show viewers the different ways they can use smartphones - from catching up with grandparents to separating fact from fiction on the web. In each episode, kids demystify the internet, discussing in plain language how the internet works, GPS, video chat, safety tips for smartphones, taking selfies, web ads and more. Each episode runs no more than four minutes.

CyberSavvy Mom caught up with GBH Senior Executive Producer Bill Shribman to learn more about the program.

Tell me about the focus of Search It Up.

We designed Search It Up to pilot ideas around kids’ everyday use of media and technology. The project is an extension of other work by the same team, Ruff Ruffman: Humble Media Genius. That was an animated series but for this, we wanted to hear from real kids.

With so much learning now happening online amid the pandemic, do you think the information can help kids navigate online tools better?

Parents may equate children’s interest and affinity with the devices with their having a full understanding of technology’s potential – and its pitfalls. And that is rarely the case in our experience. So we wanted to explore -- with kids using their own words -- what they understand and how they use these ubiquitous devices. As each video plays out we hope we show the benefits of using mobile devices and help kids avoid some of the challenges – such as being fooled by misleading information they may find online.

How did you choose the topics you cover in the episode and why were they chosen?

Although the series was two years in the making at GBH, it was completed and launched since COVID-19 took hold and forced us into a “new normal”; a world where our children are now increasingly dependent on screens. Our videos about finding information online, about sharing photos, and about communicating with family at a distance are more relevant than ever.

Having been working in the media literacy space for many years, we were aware of the broad topics we should cover. But we first brainstormed new topics as a production team, especially ones where we felt we could get great engagement from the kids we would be filming. This was to be an unscripted video and so a key aspect was picking topics our young video subjects would be able to engage in spontaneously.

We then field tested these topics with fifth graders at a local school and solicited more topics from them also. We got all kinds of magical and wonderful surprise directions from the kids we filmed and so we focused on those for our subsequent shoots as we grew each video. The best example of this is our Ask an Expert video: we could never have pictured this before we began filming. But we ran with it and think it’s simply charming.

What are you hoping families can take away from the series?

We know that families are under so much pressure right now, and that screens are a big part of family life. But we hope parents can see the value of supporting their children’s technology use and can be together on these devices with their kids - creating together, searching together, and sharing together.

Families can watch episodes of SearchItUp! on the GBH website today.

Do you have a question or a story suggestion for Cyber Savvy Mom? Contact me at joangoodchild@cybersavvymedia. com.



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