Charismatic multi-millionaire Tony Stark lifts the visor from his robot suit and spells his message out to a group of third and fourth graders gathered in front of a giant television screen in their Madrid classroom: “You should never give your personal details online without the permission of your parents, or create a profile on the social networks until you reach 14.”
Iron Man, along with Thor, Wolverine, and Captain America, have teamed up with Disney’s online Club Penguin and Spain’s Civil Guard to teach youngsters how to use the internet safely.
“I bet the majority of you have better smartphones and tablets than your parents, but you still need to be careful,” says Arsenio Fernández de Mesa, director general of the Civil Guard, to the assembled students. “There are bad people out there who will try to get to know you through the internet. What we’re about to tell you is so that from now on you will use it properly and nobody will be able to hurt you.”
The workshop, held on November 5 at the Nuestra Señora del Carmen school in Madrid, was the first of more than 6,000 that will take place throughout Spain over the coming months. All the pupils were familiar with applications such as WhatsApp, YouTube and Skype. Even so, many were ignorant of the basic rules and etiquette of using the web and the social networks. “It is forbidden to pretend to be somebody else, or record somebody on your phone without their permission and then upload it to the internet,” warns Hulk. On hand is Captain Carlos Igual, a member of the Civil Guard division that investigates crimes against minors, to clear up any doubts the children may have.
“A teenager is old enough to understand a serious message about online safety, but younger children aren’t,” he says. “Cartoons are a way to get that message over in a friendly manner, and to help them interiorize what we are trying to say.”
He adds that parents are often unaware about how the internet works, or what their children do online. “Most parents don’t even know what Twitter is, and neither do many teachers, who often come to us asking for talks about online safety.” With this in mind, the Civil Guard will also be holding workshops for parents and educators, albeit without the help of The Avengers.