Dot Com is the friend that is always there for children to listen to their problems and worries and she always tries to do the right thing no matter how hard it is.
Through her internet adventures in an amazing fantasy world online she shows children that courage is not the absence of fear, but doing the right thing no matter how scared you feel.
Dot has red hair and glasses and is not really worried about the way she looks or what she wears, she cares about the way she is as a person. She looks at other people for who they are inside not what she sees on the outside.
Love, kindness, happiness, peace and determination are her core values and through her stories and adventures she shows children how she tries to stick to these values no matter what problems come her way.
Dot tries never to hate and always tries to find a way to love everyone even if their behaviour is difficult to understand. She believes that if you try to be a good friend to everyone and do the right thing that your good values will help you to stay safe.
Dot has a fantasy world where her magic mouse can suck her into her computer and take her on adventures anywhere in the world to help children. When she is online in these adventures she discovers her dog Wizard, who is her best friend, can talk and is always there to keep her safe. In the fantasy world Dot meets other friends who can help her like Cursor the Cat, who is a cat with ‘Cattitude’ and works in Internet Security and Data Protection. He is a cat who battles with the Cyber Rats, a gang of out of control rats who live to cause chaos on the Internet and who dislike children.
Dot’s fantasy world is a very important escape mechanism for children. Dot’s Internet adventures and mission to help children all over the world gives children who are lonely and afraid a friend who will always be there for them. She gives them a mechanism to dream of going to a safe place with friends and people who will help them. She also helps them believe that if they ask for help that they will be listened to.
The mechanism to help children in the real world of school is the ‘Dot Com Journal’. It is a way for children to communicate with adults about the most difficult and sensitive issues in life. The journal belongs to the child, the teacher does not mark it and the children can write in it with any pen in any colour. It is their special journal and the teacher helps them understand that they can choose if they want to share it with any other children, but the teacher will read it.
The journal is a safeguarding tool in the hands of the child because through what they choose to write and draw they can tell adults about their problems. The teachers are trained to understand that the journals must be kept in a safe place and locked away so the children cannot read each other’s journals unless they choose to share. The teachers are asked after every lesson to read the pages that have been completed and initial and date it so the child knows it has been read.
From a safeguarding position the teacher can also prove that they are reading the child’s work and will take action if anything that is written looks like it is a cry for help.
Dot also has a real family and school life where she faces all the issues and worries of day to day life and is trying to make sense of the world around her. The content of the journals is a pull together of all the core safety messages that the emergency services would like to teach children and also includes information gathered from a number of important organisations who work to try to protect children.
The key themes in the programme that are repeated throughout the journals are:
- We all have the right to feel
- Others have the right to feel safe with us
- We can talk with someone about anything even if it feels awful or small
The children are introduced to the programme by meeting Dot and the other characters in her life, which include animals. The characters and the stories in their lives provide teachers and adults with a ‘one step removed’ way of discussing issues. So the teacher can ask ‘how might Dot (or someone) stay safe in that situation?’
The first thing the children learn and repeat in every journal is that Dot is special and they write and draw about they ways in which they are special and unique. This is fundamental as children who do not feel valued are very vulnerable.
The programme helps children learn how to value themselves and also how to choose their core values so they can make safer choices. They learn that:
‘Feelings are just feelings but behaviour is a choice with either consequences or rewards’
‘Stop, Feel, Think, Do’
They learn about Dot’s uh-oh signs, which are the body’s early warning signs of danger, or sometimes talked about as ‘fight or flight’ signals.
Finally they draw their helping hand, which is their own safety network of people whom they could share their journal with and could turn to for help.
The programme also helps children as they draw close to the age of criminal responsibility to think about their core values and to think about strategies for staying safe. They will learn the value of the law and their rights and responsibilities as children.
They will look at the value of religion and how the core value of almost every religion is ‘treat others as you would like to be treated yourself’. They learn how if we share good values we can live together peacefully.
When the programme is introduced to children it is suggested that the ‘Dot Minute’ card be shown to the children and made available. If a child is feeling worried or afraid by something then they can ask the teacher for a Dot Minute and also if a child starts to disclose something that the teacher believes needs to be said in private they can tell the child to stop because they need a Dot Minute in private. This keeps both child and teacher safe.