Friday, 15 November 2013

Books that Teach Life Lessons: INTERNET SAFETY - Guinea Pigs OnLine

As parents there are many life lessons that we need to teach our children. Some of these are difficult to approach, or need to be tackled as and when the need arises with the opportunity for planning or discussion.  This is when books can come into their own, as a children’s book whether it be a novel or picture book can have the life lessons that the children need but dealt with in sympathetic ways that they’ll understand.

On this post I'm going to talk about a book that my seven year old is reading, ‘Guinea Pigs on Line’ by Jennifer Gray and Amanda Swift’ with fantastic funny illustrations by Sarah Horne and published by Quercus. Now this book is about Guinea Pigs, Fuzzy and Coco who have adventures when their owners are working that develop out of them surfing the web.

So what, life lesson cold the stories of technical savy rodents possibly teach our kids?

Well, it actually deals with a rather topical lesson, INTERNET SAFETY. My husband works for an educational computer company, so we have many discussions on safeguarding children on the web. The problem is that children know the rules but they don’t understand them. They KNOW, not to talk to strangers on the street. BUT they don’t understand the same applies online. They know not to tell strangers where they live, but they will post photographs or their houses for all to see. The internet seems safe, protected by a screen, and it’s this lesson that children need to learn, that it’s not safe, however at the same time, you don’t want to scare them.

In Guinea Pigs Online, co-authors, Jennifer and Amanda manage to slip this essential life lesson into the story, with action peril, humour, and most avoid making it preachy. It happen in chapter four, one of the guinea pigs Fuzzy has fun away, and the other Coco is worried that he’s in danger, so she whilst trying to find clues as to where Fuzzy has gone online, she accepts a friend request from another guinea pig Renard, who offers to help her and asks for Coco address, which she gives him. Then they arrange to meet in the Copse outside her house at midnight. Of course when Coco meets him, vulnerable and alone, Renard turns out not to be a guinea pig at all but a hungry fox.

Thankfully Coco avoids becoming fox food, but her tale of naivety about internet safety and the consequences, are written in an way that digestible for children, clearly showing all of Coco mistakes and what the consequences can be without causing terror. In a world that is becoming more and more web based I’d urge any parents, teachers and careers to read this book to their children.


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