Reading is for education as much as it is for enjoyment. Immersing oneself in fiction has been proven to help develop empathy, stories open up your mind to ideas and conversations, and illustrations enhance a story and help children to understand a topic even more deeply.
As online safety and the issues related to digital wellbeing have become more widely spoken about, there have been some wonderful picture books published to complement these conversations. Key values in the offline world, can be applied to the online world to keep kids safe during their digital experiences. Sharing these values through stories is a beautiful and engaging way to build digital wellbeing.
Here are some of our favourites. And to make it easy for you to find the right book at the right time, we’ve organised them into topics (scroll down and see for yourself!) and provided some suggestions for discussion starters and activities to do with your kids.
The Fabulous Friend Machine
Renowned author, Nick Bland, of The Very Cranky Bear has a lesser known but equally salient book – The Fabulous Friend Machine. In this story, a delightfully friendly chicken called Popcorn discovers an intriguing machine. As she makes new friends via this device, she comes to realise that not everybody you meet is as friendly as you expect!
- How can you tell if somebody is really who they say they are online?
- Is it safe to chat to strangers online?
- What can you do if a stranger is trying to chat to you or making you feel uncomfortable online?
Once Upon a Time Online
Your favourite fairy tale characters are back, and this time they’re living in the 21st Century! From the Big Bad Wolf’s gaming addiction to Cinderella enjoying some online retail therapy, everyone is having a wonderful time with this new technology until things start to go wrong. Luckily the fairy godmother is able to wave her magic wand and share some important advice … “You must ask a grown-up before going online!” … and help everyone to be inclusive, creative and balanced in this digital world.
- Why is it important to ask an adult before going online?
- How can you include others both offline and online?
- Why is creation better than consumption when using technology?
- How can you make sure you have a healthy digital balance?
The Internet is Like a Puddle
A beautifully illustrated book that looks at lots of ways we can have fun on the internet, just like we can have lots of fun splashing and jumping and playing in puddles. But, in the same way that you never know just how deep a puddle might be, the internet can be deeper than it looks too. This picture book encourages an awareness of safety online, a healthy balance in the offline and online worlds and the importance of talking to an adult about your online activities.
- What are some important things to do before going online?
- Should you go online if there is not a trusted adult around?
- What could you do if you came across a situation online that felt too ‘deep’?
The Tweeting Galah Series
Australian-based Educator, Kim Maslin, developed this series of cyber safety books for children for teachers to use in the classroom – but we think they’re perfect for every home library too! Currently there are four books in the range (The Tweeting Galah, The Little Possum Who Looked Up, The Zooming Owl and The Surfing Penguin) which are aligned to the Australian Curriculum, and there are even free lessons and resources on their website for educators and parents to use.
- What social media, apps, games and websites do you use?
- What are some fun activities you can do to take a break from your screens?
- How does your body feel when you feel uncomfortable online or offline?
- How can you be a good digital citizen?
It’s a Book
An adorable and hilarious tale of two friends and a book. With minimal language but lots of humour, kids love laughing along as monkey explains that his book doesn’t blog or tweet or even need a password. And to scroll he simply turns the page! Will his friend see that a book can be even more entertaining than a device?
- What things are the same and different about books and devices? Make a Venn Diagram to explore your ideas!
- How can you make sure you have a good online/offline balance in your life?
- Can you think of three reasons why books are better than technology?
Introduce the concepts of NFTs, WEB3, blockchain and cryptocurrency with this cute new book! Children will learn some lingo as well as more technical language of the culture that’s building up around them, and the hand-drawn characters and rhyming story will keep them entertained. You might find yourself learning a thing or two along the way!
- What do you think NFTs mean for our future?
- What can you do to avoid scammers and rug pulls?
- What is something new you learned from this story?
DIGITAL BALANCE & WELLBEING
Raymond the Raccoon – Misses His Friends
Jesse Hewitt & Julian Steincke
This story follows Raymond the Raccoon on a quest through the woods as he experiences some of the harsh realities involved in a culture dominated by screen obsession. Through following Raymond’s quest, children discover their health, wellbeing and friendships can be greatly improved by disconnecting from screens and reengaging with the real world.
- How does using technology for long periods of time make you feel?
- Why might spending more time with technology than friends and family be unhealthy for our minds and bodies?
- Have students discuss times when they have found that technology has gotten in the way of playing with a friend or sibling. Brainstorm possible responses or suggested strategies to manage the situation if/when technology is getting in the way of “green time” with friends and family.
CONSENT & RESPECT
From My Head to My Toes, I Say What Goes
Charlotte Barkla & Jacqui Lee
“From my head to my toes, I say what goes”… Your kids will be repeating this phrase over and over after you’ve read this book! Yes or no – it’s always your choice! Whether it’s having a pillow fight, climbing a high tree or holding hands, this book emphasises the right everybody has to choose, and the importance of respecting other’s rights in return.
- Have students stand in a line. Give them an example scenario – make it an online one if you can! For example, “somebody asks if they can share your work on the school website”. Ask them to step one way if they want to say yes and the other way if they want to say no. Remind everybody that it’s every person’s right to make their own choice, there’s no right or wrong, and it’s important we all respect these decisions.
- Turn to the second last page: the double spread with examples of ways you can say no. Read out each phrase and have the class repeat it. Ask students to think of more ways they could politely and respectfully say “no”.
Boss of Your Own Body
Byll & Beth Stephen
When you’re little, there are lots of things you are not the boss of… for example. what your family is having for dinner or when it’s time for bed. But you ARE the boss of your body! This gorgeous, funny, relatable book talks to children about when it is and is not ok to be ‘the boss’ while promoting consent and empowerment.
- Develop up with a list of times when you can or cannot be ‘the boss’. Use some examples from the book as a starting point.
- “I’m the boss of my body” … what other phrases can you use to tell somebody you don’t feel comfortable or don’t consent?
- How can you show consent online? e.g. ask your friend before sharing a picture of them online
KINDNESS & INCLUSIVITY
What to Say When You Don’t Know What to Say
Davina Bell & Hilary Jean Tapper
Filled to the brim with stunning illustrations, this book presents every day situations children (or even adults!) might find themselves in where they feel sad, embarrassed or uncomfortable. Each page is paired with a simple yet perfect phrase – providing appropriate words you could say if you find yourself in a similar situation.
- Inferring: Look at each picture and think about what is happening in each situation.
- Why is each phrase an appropriate way to respond? What other supportive or kind ways could you respond? Could you use these phrases in online situations too?
- Think of online experiences when you might feel sad, angry or disappointed. What could you say to somebody at these times to help them? Have students draw their own picture and write an appropriate phrase underneath.
It’s up to U!
What can happen when one embarrassing image is shared online? Exploring the impact on home and school life, and how seemingly small actions can make a big difference, this colourful picture book is perfect for primary school students of all ages. A great way to kick start a conversation about making kind choices online, taking upstander action, and apologising when you’ve made a mistake. Anyone can be an upstander and make a difference!
- Have you ever had a negative online experience?
- What would you do if you saw someone being unkind online?
- Who could you turn to if something happened online that made you feel uncomfortable?
- How can you be an upstander offline and online?
Through contrasting images and cut-out shapes, this picture book shows the ways cracks can develop in relationships alongside the ways we can build up and develop relationships through kindness, coming together in the end to show how strong we can be when we love, care and work together.
- What are some of the ways the children in the book grew cracks in their relationships? What are some of the ways they rebuilt their relationships?
- Think of a time somebody was kind to you online. Encourage students to share their positive experiences.
- What can you do to be kind to somebody online? There is a well-known saying, “Be a little kinder than you have to”. Challenge students to do an extra kind gesture over the next 24 hours, either online or offline.
Kind: A book about kindness
A collaboration between more than 30 world-famous illustrators, this picture book looks at ways to be kind, why kindness is so important, and how we can include others to make everybody feel welcome and cared for. This book supports the Three Peas charity. In their words, “Imagine if every single one of us did something small to help? Together we could make a big difference!”
- How can we help to make an online world where everybody feels loved and included?
- Can you think of a time when you or somebody you know felt left out? How did you help to include them? How could you help to make others feel included when playing a game online?
- In the book, they make a Kindness Jar. Start your own Kindness Jar in the classroom or at home.
Have you read some of these books with your kids? We’d love to hear from you if you have, or if you know of another wonderful picture book we should add to the list!
Looking for more resources to kick start conversations and learnings in your school or home? Our Curriculum Portal makes cyber safety teaching simple and our Family Workshops are accessible from the comfort of your home.
Author: Jaclyn Tasker | Strategic Content Creator, Cyber Safety Project