With the holiday season sure to place more devices in more young hands, this is a good time to take a fresh look at this important topic! – KW
With hundreds of thousands of new malware samples being launched every day, cybersecurity is an issue of ever-increasing relevance in today’s world.
But these threats aren’t just being faced by large companies or those with a significant digital presence.
Anyone who browses the internet is a potential victim of cyber-crime, regardless of gender, location or age.
In case the spread of cyber-crime continues at its current pace, it could easily become one of the biggest dangers we face as individuals.
Therefore, it’s important we start educating children about potential online risks. As adults and educators can take to safeguard their future and protect them from potential cyber threats.
Due to their curiosity and browsing habits, children of all ages are particularly vulnerable to issues such as malicious links, malware, viruses, drive-by downloads.
These are threats that also affect adults, but the way cybercriminals reach out to children is often quite different.
For example, a child is easily drawn in by bright colors and the promise of free music or games. Unlike adults, they may be more trusting and not realize the risks that clicking such links could expose them to.
For many educators, finding a way to broach the topic of how and why these actions are risky can prove a challenge.
For example, it can be difficult to make a child understand how ransomware attacks affect computers and the reasons why criminals might steal information.
But, despite this, it’s essential to begin the conversation at an early age when children typically start using the internet.
Stranger danger is present in the digital realm too. Explain to children that just because someone introduced themselves as their peers don’t necessarily make it true.
Teach them to question everything, and to always be on guard when it comes to talking with others online.
Teach them to say “no” to any request by someone they don’t know in the real world too.
Adjust to Their Level
The best way to start is to talk in ways that will engage them. Use stories or metaphors to explain the importance of keeping personal information, identity and online reputation safe and intact.
Begin to develop their understanding of online security by laying out the context; explaining that there are bad guys who may not always be who they say they are, and how a connected toy can potentially impact the security of the entire household.
The key is to teach the child not to engage in behaviors that they’d be wary to in real life, such as accepting a friend request from a stranger or sharing personal details with people they do not know.
As an educator who uses technology in classrooms, here are a few basic principles you can teach your class to begin to encourage the right kind or behaviors online:
- Don’t use your name in a password
- Don’t install apps that seem suspicious
- Don’t share passwords or personal information
- Avoid talking to strangers online and only add people you know on social media
- Don’t upload pictures of people without their consent
You can support good online behavior through various means. For younger children, gamification can make the situation a fun one instead of something to make them feel anxious or overwhelmed.
Give them ‘points’ for abiding by certain rules, or reward them with extra liberties and internet time.
Involving the Parent
The child’s parent will also be a valuable asset in encouraging the student’s safe online behavior.
Engage them in the process of teaching the child healthy habits, and provide opportunities for them to learn more.
Aside from discussing the issue with their kids directly, parents can contribute to their children’s safety:
- Monitor their child’s messages or set them up with a protected email account
- Keep online browsing to common family areas where they can see what the kid is doing
- Install kid-friendly search engines like Kiddle, KidRex, and Safe Search Kids on all computers and devices
- Check privacy settings on the devices used by their kids
- Make sure their child is using a mobile phone that has child protection in place
- Set their web browser to block pop-ups and disable Java
Creating a short leaflet for the parent, outlining ways to keep themselves and their kids safe online will benefit the child by extension.
You can also set assignments that require the parent to link up with the child through a particular application or monitor their online progress; indirectly bringing them into their child’s digital world.
Using Apps as Tools
But technology isn’t just a weapon to be used against us – it’s also a weapon of defense.
Used correctly, technology can be a fantastic educational tool that protects against risks rather than just enabling them.
The bottom line is that kids (and their parents!) need to know and trust the content they’re consuming.
Apps should be downloaded from official app stores, where you’re required to go through detailed checks and verification processes.
Certain, trusted apps can help your child or student with everything from developing motor skills and solving maths problems to getting to know the world – all within a space that’s totally safe and risk-free.
Apps like these give students room to build critical-thinking skills and habits of mind to navigate the problems they encounter, both on and offline.
Cybersecurity Isn’t a Problem That’s Going Away
It’s important to realize that, as technology advances, so does criminal activity. As a result, the question of staying safe online is becoming more and more nuanced.
Because – the truth is – the vast majority of security breaches take place due to carelessness!
Instilling a few basic security habits into a child at a young age will encourage them to develop a healthy cautiousness that’ll serve them well into adulthood.
No one can totally eliminate the risk of online activities.
But, by taking reasonable precautions and educating young ones on best practices for conducting themselves online, overall risk can be significantly reduced and managed.