Young people all use social networking sites to keep up with friends--and we've all heard the stories about parties on MySpace being mobbed, or people getting stalked on Facebook. Smokescreen aims to make young people think about solutions to online privacy and security as the risks and threats could actually be real.
In 2009, Six to Start was commissioned by Channel 4 Education to help teens aged 14 to16 understand the risks of being online--from defending themselves against phishing to avoiding online stalkers. Smokescreen was designed to engage teenagers and give them a useful understanding of all of these issues of life online through an interactive online game with an exciting story.
At its heart, Smokescreen simulates the internet. In the game, players use 'Fakebook', 'Gaggle', 'Tweetr', 'MSG messenger' and other sites to help a group of friends who have set up an exclusive new teen-only social networking site called White Smoke. Players also receive simulated phone calls and text messages from the in-game characters.
Smokescreen takes place over 13 'missions', each designed to last 10 to 20 minutes, that explore key areas, such as:
The Rumour Mill: Tracks down the creator of a rogue game that's phishing (stealing) users' personal information from White Smoke.
Too Much Information: Use Fakebook, Gaggle, Tweetr and White Smoke to help someone find the girl of his dreams ...
Skiving Off: A friend skipped school, and needs help now that someone posted a photo of her on Fakebook!
Gatecrashers: Thousands of people are turning up to Max's private party ever since it was shared online, and he needs help to turn them away.
End of the Line: Exactly what can you find out from someone's internet browser history...?
The site does offer assurances about awards for which it has been nominated and/or won, who has created it and how to contact them.
However, its own write up vastly overplays its excitement. I was left feeling baffled as I simply failed to see its appeal. But I am not a 14-16 year old, so I drafted in my 14 year old son. His verdict? 'Boring.' If the game has been around since 2009 and needs publicising now, it has obviously not proved popular with young people. The idea is good, but there are more productive ways of teaching internet safety available.
Interestingly, when I tried this out in school, the reactions were very different. The pupils were very enthusiastic--but they were 12 year-olds, not the target audience. They really enjoyed the missions but I'm not sure that they realised what they were expected to learn from it. The verdict of the 14 and 15 year olds was that it was interesting but needed to be set in context by some direct explanation and the opportunity to discuss the points raised; they realised they were expected to learn something but weren't entirely sure what. This would probably benefit from being used within an internet safety programme rather than simply being pushed as 'a game'.
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|Title Annotation:||ict@sla; http://www.sixtostart.com/smokescreen/ and http://www.smokescreengame.com/|
|Author:||Woods, Dawn; Scott, Elspeth S.|
|Article Type:||Website overview|
|Date:||Mar 22, 2012|
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