The University of Delaware is now introducing Zenbo, a social robot that is teaching school children cybersecurity. With a focus on becoming safer digital citizens and how to safeguard information online. Zenbo is about 60 centimetres tall and is using preprogrammed well-known children stories, like Little Red Riding Hood, that are adapted to the subject to teach the children. The purpose of the concept is to engage and sustain children’s attention spans on an urgent subject like cybersecurity. Especially since a social robot on cybersecurity attracts more attention from the children than e.g. a video or animation. This should be seen in the light that children ages 8-12 are online at approx. 6 hours per day with all the dangers that this includes, according to research. Chrystalla Mouza, Distinguished Professor in Teacher Education in UD’s College of Education and Human Development (CEHD) says the following:
“These checkpoints reinforce positive behaviours and create teachable moments for when children make mistakes. It’s important that this training is provided in school because we cannot rely on it being provided elsewhere.”
Karen B. Roberts, a senior researcher with the Center for Research in Education and Social Policy, continues:
“Having a robot work one-on-one with a child can deliver important support outside of what a teacher or paraprofessional can provide in the classroom. This can help children learn and practice appropriate behaviours and responses.”
The research team now is planning to pilot Zenbo and the UD-developed stories during the spring. But also expand the concept with virtual reality features to make the children not only learn from the stories but also become characters within them in role plays.
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