Gender and Safety on the Internet

Cyber Bullying cartoon sketches


The Mediterranean Institute of Gender Studies (MIGS) wanted a video campaign to raise awareness on gender based violence through new media technologies. The campaign needed to also promote the “SafenetCY” Hotline and the Safer Internet Helpline operated by Cyberethics Cyprus. The campaign was developed within the framework of the project “Staying Safe Online: Gender and Safety on the Internet”, funded by the Daphne III Programme of the European Union. The video campaign address three forms of online gender-based violence including online child grooming, cyberbullying, and cyberstalking.

In the 15 years I have worked with MIGS, this was the first video project I had undertaken. I was excited to take this on though as Video and TV was a new area for me. Targeting primarily secondary school students in Cyprus, MIGS agreed an animated approach was the best way forward; with story telling and visual freedom to engage and resonate with a young audience, but also with universal appeal. Having researched existing campaigns on the same issue, I wanted something different, fresh and unique.

Due to a very tight budget and limited recourses, I decided early on in the process to basing the animations style on Simon Tofield’s Simon’s Cat animated series; production simplicity, simple and legible, without any unnecessary elements, like colour, shading and gradients, with a hand-drawn feeling. The most challenging part was developing the story telling. My experience with video is limited to Flash animation so I enlisted the help of a talented cartoonist, animator, illustrator, and story teller Dario Kukic. With the specification from the Cyprus TV network that was to air the campaign, Dario and I worked together on developing the animation style for the three forms of online gender-based violence. We started scripting the stories and Dario developed the characters and storyboards on paper to show the major actions throughout the animations. Working with MIGS, we went through several iterations, each one presented for feedback and approval. After sign off, Dario refined the drawings, drew the keyframes and drew the in-betweens. Lastly, I stitched all the sequences together in AfterEffects including a credit sequence for the ending.

Similar to how the ‘Simon’s Cat’ animated series was developed, sound came after the animations was complete. There was no budget to hire a Foley artist, so I took on the task of adding the sound. Sound clips and a soundtrack to bring the animations to life was licensed from sound effects websites and a few effects I created myself using my laptop and phone microphone. Getting the sound right was extremely challenging but the result was worth the effort! All sounds had to be tweaked for consistency, very similar to a visual design style guide. The three completed animation clips were then rendered and supplied to a leading television network in Cyprus for airing.

I am currently working with MIGS and Cyberethics to provide data on the campaign results, and I will post it here.