The world wide web can be a wonderful resource, but it can also be a dangerous and confusing place to navigate, particularly for families. On Safer Internet Day (Feb. 11), Google addressed the issue through an activation in Manhattan that brought to life its Be Internet Awesome platform, a suite of digital offerings that teach the fundamentals of online citizenship and safety. The educational experience at the Grow with Google NYC Learning Center was executed just outside a series of workshops for families focused on driving accessibility in learning, organized by Google, the National PTA and the YMCA. With an art gallery theme and interactive touchpoints, Google’s experience drew in attendees leaving sessions, as well as curious onlookers who popped in from the street.
The Be Internet Awesome platform, which serves as Google’s version of a “driver’s license” for the internet, is comprised of five pillars: Smart, which teaches responsible communication; Alert, which shows users how not to “fall for fake”; Strong, which deals with building strong passwords and protecting personal information; Kind, which teaches how to spread positivity online; and Brave, which educates users on when to report online behavior. The really cool part? Be Internet Awesome is all about online safety, so Google doesn’t leverage or promote its products on the program microsite or during events.
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At the Safer Internet Day event, Google transformed each of the Be Internet Awesome pillars into a live experience, turning complex subjects into digestible bites. Here’s the breakdown.
The Smart pillar came to life as a Situation Sticker Installation, inspired by Kusuma’s Obliteration Room. Attendees encountered an all-white, abstract space featuring faux white Pixel Slates that read: “Share with Care,” “Not Safe” or “Talk it Out.” Participants grabbed a colorful sticker with a situation printed on it, and were then challenged to place it onto the area that it applied to. A red sticker that read, “your email password,” for instance, would be stuck to the “Not Safe” to share section. As the day unfolded, the stickers grew into a colorful mosaic of sorts.
This one really stumped adults. Google developed an Alert quiz featuring a series of eight questions around phishing scams and credible or non-credible sources that could be answered on a touch screen. Participants had to determine if the scenario was real or fake. An example: It’s best to report spam, as opposed to simply deleting it, because you want to inform the algorithm that the email is junk mail.
The Strong pillar was depicted via a Password Sculpture Garden featuring weak and strong passwords that doubled as art installations. The sculptures were made up of the letters, symbols and numbers that could make up a password—strong passwords were colorful and sturdy, while the weak passwords were grey and unsteady. You’d be surprised how many consumers’ passwords are, in fact, “password,” according to the brand. Cringe.
“It’s cool to be kind” was the message in the Kind zone, where attendees could write positive thoughts on a wall of blank notecards. Some of the notes included a scenario to respond to, while others were left blank. The idea was to show how simple actions can turn negative interactions into positive ones. Participants could also pose for a photo in front of Google’s oversized heart installation.
“Kind is my favorite pillar,” says Jessica Covarrubias, education program lead at Google. “It’s super important, especially in this day and age when cyber bullying is so prevalent, to show people how much you can do to combat it. And it’s not going to be easy, but there are small ways that you can take action, whether it’s privately or publicly.”
For the Brave pillar, Google created a tips wall where attendees could pull out frames and tips from each of the pillars that popped up, helping them navigate all of the online safety topics they were encountering. Participants could also engage with a video game Google developed for its microsite called Interland, which reinforced all of the concepts of online safety included in Be Internet Awesome.
On their way out of the gallery experience, attendees could drop by the gift shop to pick up a complimentary tote bag filled with online safety resources.
“I think what we’re seeing more and more is we’re realizing that we don’t know every answer to [online safety] and that’s OK. But we should at least be aware of some of the spots that can be a little murky or difficult to understand so that we can continue to open that line of communication,” says Covarrubias. “This is especially important with children so that they’re encouraged to talk about the things that they’re coming across on the internet with their parents. We’re trying to inspire more of that openness, and the online safety gallery was a brilliant way to bring to life the content with a fun and relatable experience.” Agency: MKG.