EdTech for Internet Safety
About the Cynja Team
Our ultimate mission is to engage children when they encounter the internet – to teach them how to make smart choices, practice online security, and enable privacy protection as they navigate their new digital lives.
We are EdTech for internet safety. We are a team of cybersecurity and technology professionals who are building the next generation of apps designed to empower our children.
- We don’t simply filter content.
- We don’t mine childrens’ data to sell advertising without parental consent.
- We educate as well as entertain.
Most importantly, our apps give parents total control in an easy-to-use, comprehensive guided interface. Unlike the competitors which fence-in the child, either geographically by requiring proximity to hardware, or intellectually by limiting activities, our apps encourage kids to experience and engage in all aspects of digital life like email, chat and social sharing.
In short, doing all the things they will continue do throughout their digital lives – while teaching online privacy and security in a user interface kids love. We are the next generation of EdTech. Technology specifically designed for kids and their families with all the security and privacy protections of enterprise grade applications. Your kids are our kids!
- In empowering kids to make smart choices online by using their super Cynja powers
- Awesome storytelling & way cool illustrations should be inspired by real cyber threats and technology
- Kids need a magical place that will help them grow into their digital lives
- Parents & kids should learn about cyberspace together
- The world needs more Cynjas!
Our cyber adventures have only just begun!
As a Cynja, protagonist Grant Wiley wields ‘hex grenades,’ wears a binary vision monocle that can detect malicious code, and carries ‘optic pulse’ swords that slash through bandwidth. Just over-the-top enough to have kids go, ‘Cool!’
– Fahmida Y. Rashid, PC Magazine
How The Cynja Came to Life
Once upon a time, I found my nephew, Grant, fighting some dragons, which-to be honest-struck me as pretty useless. No disrespect to dragons-or dragon slayers-but they’re old-school. So I said, “C’mon Grant, why don’t you fight the real bad guys-the ones that live in our computers?”
He had no idea what I was talking about.
This was frustrating because fighting bad guys is his passion. And there are lots of bad guys in cyberspace.
So I decided to buy him a security book for kids that would explain the wild cyber world of worms and zombies and Trojans and show him how awesome this world-the world I work in-really is. This security book for kids would also introduce him to an important life lesson: We now live in an era of digital crime.
There was nothing cool, nothing awesome-nothing that truly captured this dynamic virtual world. So I had no choice, I had to write this security book for kids myself.
The first step was to email my friend Chase, who fights cyber bad guys for real. “Why don’t we write a rocking security book for kids about cybersecurity?” I said. And Chase replied-
“Dude, yeah!” Heather and I had worked together teaching people about the techniques bad guys use to destroy entire networks. And I agreed with her-we live in a digital world that is continually under threat, and there wasn’t a security book for kids that connected them to this world. I knew we could write a cool story about cyberspace that would grab a kid’s imagination, teach them about being safe online-and possibly even inspire the next generation of security professionals!
Chase was the original inspiration for the Cynja character. I call him the CynjaMaster because he drove character development. What we needed was a kicking story, and this is where my background as a journalist kicked in. I interviewed Chase about his battles in cyberspace-in all their glorious, geeky technical data. And then I talked to Grant in order to enter a six-year old’s imagination-and what it’s like to be the hero of your own magical battles against bad guys.
Then, when I had free time, I’d pop into whichever cafe I happened to be near while on travel-Beijing, Barcelona, Boston, Dublin, London, San Diego, Seattle-and through email, texting and online video chat, we wrote the story. It was a book about cyberspace written in cyberspace! And cyberspace-as it turned out-was the key to solving our most daunting challenge-finding an artist.
We asked the Internet-and the Internet answered with Shirow.
We knew he was “our guy” at first sight. His art represented everything we wanted The Cynja to be. And he was wearing a Star Wars T-shirt that said he’d attended the Jedi Training Academy!
One of the challenges and one of the most exciting things about The Cynja was how to visualize the digital world. As adults we talk about computer viruses and Trojans and all sorts of mayhem, but despite the analogies, it’s still very abstract-even in the technology and cyber security world, visualization is a real challenge. I wanted kids to see my world at work. People have seen the Wizard of Oz and Storm chasers. They know what to do when they get a tornado warning. And they know it probably won’t be good if they stand in the eye of the storm. We wanted to illustrate The Cynja in a way that would enable people to understand the gravity of being stuck in an infected network or encountering malicious malware. Shirow knew exactly what this world looked like. He is awesome-one brilliant dude.
I had never done anything like this story before. Most of the time I do digital paintings but never anything in comic book style. It was a challenge-but I had been looking to do a children’s book and I loved the concept of The Cynja. There is so much information out there for adult or teens, but nothing tailored for kids. Lots of children surf the Internet without knowing the devious people who want to cause harm.
Shirow became my 7am online video chat buddy because he lives near Brussels in Belgium. I like to say Shirow and I made TV with this book. I’m a broadcast journalist and Shirow’s a self-trained artist. We used the language of TV camera angles, zooms, pans, racking shots in order to create the world of The Cynja. Look closely at the book and you’ll see Shirow has an amazing talent for perspective in rendering action.
Chase, being a Navy veteran, conceptualized all our battle scenes based on real world scenarios. In fact, Chase created–and on several occasions drew–the concept designs for most of the characters, their super powers, and their weapons. Chase and Shirow both have two young daughters so they’re immersed in the world of superpower magic.
My oldest daughter is almost eight, and she’s about to start using computers and the Internet more and more for school work. As an ex-IT engineer, I know the risks–and I can explain them. However, this book will make it easier for my girls to “see” what I’m talking about. If this book can teach them to be careful in a fun way, all the better. Drawing this book was an incredible experience-I gave myself goosebumps drawing the Cynsei character dressed as a Samurai fighting a dragon-
What is it with guys and dragons?
I’m happy to report my nephew has moved past slaying dragons and now focuses on using his optic pulse sword to slash worms, Trojans, viruses and any other malware that he finds has infiltrated his bedroom. Grant has fallen in love with The Cynja. He’s our #1 fan. More importantly, Grant knows bad guys live in his computer, tablet, and possibly in his Mom’s smartphone.
This book is about disruption-and disruptive technology at its worst. But, happily, the book itself-both the physical copy and the ebook-is an example of tech disruption at its best. Self-publishing has come a long way, and Blurb-the service we used-is just gorgeous. It was the key to realizing our vision-and to letting us be ourselves.
I wrote this book for my two daughters; it’s exactly how I plan to teach them about the dangers of the Internet. We live in an amazing digital world that has brought everyone enormous benefits. But just as you can do good or bad in the real world, so you can do good or bad in cyberspace.
It’s important for my girls to know that it’s up to people like me to protect vital computer systems. But it’s also important to encourage kids to be safe online and to learn about the technology. Incredibly, we’re facing a shortage of cybersecurity professionals that is expected to last for years. So, my hope is that the Cynja might inspire some of its readers to join me in fighting the bad guys online. The world really does need more Cynjas!