Kim Maslin is an author and digital technologies educator whose colourful kids' books read like Aesop's fables for the digital age - teaching children values, manners and balance around their use of screen technology.
A story from her latest book,The Surfing Penguin, is extracted below.
THE COURAGEOUS QUEST OF THE SMILING QUOKKA
This was Quinn’s first home visit since starting at Spinifex State High School, and she was so excited to spend time with her family. She reached into her pouch and pulled out her phone. Standing up on her hind legs and smiling widely, she took a selfie in front of the sparkling turquoise ocean. She then uploaded it so that her new friends could see where she was from.
After a fun-filled day at the beach playing chasey - mostly being chased! - with her little twin brothers, Quentin and Quince, Quinn settled down with her family to watch the sunset.
Quinn heard her phone ding. Pulling it out of her pouch, she saw that her photo had received some comments from students in her PE class.
My what a big nose you have!
Take this down. And don’t come back.
Quinn’s eyes filled with tears. She sniffled, and her mum turned to look at her.
“What’s wrong, love?” Quinn held out her phone so that her parents could see.
“Well, the answer is simple, isn’t it?” piped up Quentin, who had been peering over their shoulders. “Just take a better picture next time.”
“Yeah, preferably without you in it!” Quince chimed in. They giggled and gave each other a high paw. Their mum, however, silenced them instantly with a hard stare.
"Well, this is just horrible,” her mum said, turning back to Quinn. “You need to delete these comments straightaway and block those students so that they can’t message you anymore.”
“But first,” her dad added, “take a screenshot of all the comments so that you can show them to Coach Coot next week.”
“I’m not sure,” Quinn said quietly. “Maybe it would be best just to delete the photo completely and forget it ever happened.”
Her brothers looked at each other, wide-eyed, and then back to her. “Don’t do that! We were just joking, you know,” Quince said.
“Yeah, you actually look, you know, OK in that photo,” Quentin added.
Quinn gave a small laugh, which quickly turned into a cry as her phone gave another ding.
“I can’t look,” she exclaimed.
Her mum glanced down at the phone and smiled. “I think you’ll want to read this one, Quinn.”
She gingerly took the phone and glanced down. It was from another classmate, Balbina.
Oi, this isn’t funny. It’s mean. Just because you’re jealous doesn’t give you the right to bully someone.
Quinn, you look gorgeous in this photo xoxo.
“That was a very kind and brave thing for Balbina to say,” her dad said.
Quinn nodded, filling with hope. She quickly sent Balbina a private message.
Quinn: Hey B, thanks so much for standing up for me. You didn’t have to do that.
Balbina: Of course I did! I wasn’t just going to stand by and let them bully you. You know, when that video of me went viral last year … I received some hurtful messages as well, so I know how it feels.
Quinn: Really? What did you do? My parents have suggested I delete and block, as well as show a screenshot to Coach Coot.
Balbina: Yep, I did all that. But I also just kept being myself. I refused to let those bullies see they had upset me or stop me from being me.
Quinn considered what her friend had just told her. If Balbina could be brave like that, she thought to herself, then so could she! She quickly screenshotted the evidence, deleted the comments and blocked the bullies. Then she stood up on her hind legs and smiled at her family, still enjoying the sunset. She ruffled Quentin’s furry head affectionately.
“Come on, everyone, let’s get a group selfie before the sun completely disappears!”
extracted from The Surfing Penguin: A collection of interactive short stories about growing up in the digital age (2018), by Kim Maslin
Illustrations by John Field
Learn more, or order your copy of The Surfing Penguin, at https://kimmaslin.com/the-surfing-penguin/
The Surfing Penguin is the second in The Tweeting Galah series, an engaging online safety resource for primary-aged kids. The series uses innovative augmented reality technology to bring stories to life and is supported by learning activities available on Kim’s website.
We asked Kim to explain a bit more about how and why The Tweeting Galah series engages kids.
What age group is the book aimed at, and what was your motivation in addressing this particular audience?
The book is aimed at children aged 7 – 12 years. Children are using smart devices and the internet from an increasingly young age, so I wanted to create something that would assist them in forming healthy and safe online habits from the start!
Some parents might object that primary-aged kids are too young to worry about cyberbullying and other online dangers. Why do you disagree?
The use of the internet and digital devices is becoming an inevitable part of growing up. I was reading some research recently which has found 94% of 8 to 11 year olds are going online, 81% use YouTube and 23% of them have social media profiles. Even 79% of 5- to 7-year-olds go online! With YouTube comes the risk of stumbling across inappropriate content, and with social media comes the risk of witnessing or experiencing trolling and cyberbullying.
As soon as kids begin to use digital technologies I believe they should be taught how to use them safely, in an age-appropriate way. I would love to see cybersafety education as commonplace and integrated into child education as the topics of stranger danger and road safety. I’m sure most parents wouldn’t let their child ride a bike outside without first discussing the danger of cars! The same goes with YouTube, online games and social media.
Can you explain how the Augmented Reality (AR) feature of your books works? How have kids reacted to it?
It sounds more complicated than it is! Basically kids download an app called Zappar to their device and use that app to scan embedded codes throughout the book. This takes them online to additional enriched content.
I believe augmented reality experiences can provide a wonderful opportunity for engagement and learning, by giving kids a chance to actively interact with a story, its characters and messages. It also provides a way of showcasing how technology can be used in a safe and meaningful way.
Family Zone is proud to count Kim Maslin as a member of our acclaimed team of cyber experts.
A new report suggests many mums and dads are sending their kids mixed messages.