VIDEO: Computerised toys help kids switch on to cyber safety

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Children have been given a ‘block by block’ guide to cyber safety as part of a hands on project using computerised Lego. 

Pupils at Wakefield’s Greenhill Primary School have been letting their imaginations run wild through a police schools project to help them stay safer on line and also teach them truly ‘hands on’ coding. 

Over the past six weeks, alongside their safety inputs, the youngsters have been given the chance to create constructions using Mindstorm Lego kits in which the plastic blocks are laced with miniaturised motors and controlled by an intelligent brick’ computer which can be attached to the devices. 

PCSOs have taught basic coding to the youngsters on iPads, allowing them to program movements for their creations and get them up and working. 

Plastic projects completed by the 9-11-year-olds include creating a Gripp3r robot which can lift a full can of coke and move it around, and a Track3r that has a variety of different attachments which can then be operated. 

Officers believe that by teaching the children how to create programmes for computers and see them in action, they will encourage them to be more respectful of technology, its potential and the need to stay safe when using it. 

The safety sessions themselves have included topics such as appropriate use of social media, not disclosing information to strangers who may approach them on line and much more. 

West Yorkshire Police has been conducting a force wide program of cyber safety education across the force area since last year as part of a drive to help reduce residents vulnerability to all types of on line offending. 

A key focus of lessons aimed at young people has been to help them spot the signs of on line grooming and also reduce their vulnerability to bullying on line .

PSCO Johnny Plummer of the Wakefield Neighbourhood Policing Team, who organised the scheme, said: “Teaching cyber safety is a key part of our police work with young people and we are always seeking new ways of engaging with the youngsters and encouraging them to be interested in what we do.  

“We’ve found the youngsters have really enjoyed attending these after school sessions which have allowed them to learn safety information from us and be creative at the same time. 

“Learning how to actually programme computers helps children better understand the technology and develop a better respect for it, and these Lego kits we’ve been using help them see items work in the real world as a result of the programmes they’ve created.” 

He added: “I want to thank Greenhill school who have been really supportive in helping us set up these lessons and in providing the funding to buy the Mindstorm kits. 

“The feedback we’ve had from the children has been excellent and it’s been great to see them learn how to stay safer on line whilst also gain a taste into the potential computers can offer for creativity.” 

Det Insp Dan Tillet, cyber crime lead for Wakefield, said: “ Our officers have been working hard to find innovative approaches to cyber-crime prevention. This initiative embraces learning whilst delivering key messages to a new, computer savvy, generation.”