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Teaching Cybersecurity to the Next Generation

Children working together learning about cybersecurity and computers

Why should we be concerned with teaching cybersecurity to the next generation? In today’s world, nearly everything is done online. From schoolwork to socializing, children are increasingly spending more time on the internet. This trend is only likely to continue, with the next generation of children being even more connected than ever before. With this increased connectivity comes increased risk. As children are often unaware of the dangers posed by cybercriminals, they can be easy targets. By educating them about the risks and helping them to develop good habits while they are young, we can help to protect the next generation from becoming victims of cybercrime. Here are some ways to help mitigate cybersecurity risks for children:

Open Communication. By fostering an environment of open communication and providing examples of concerning situations, we can help equip the next generation with the tools they need to stay safe online. It is important to foster an environment of open communication and the ability to question anything that might look awry in their email, internet or social media usage. As parents, we should be providing examples of situations that are concerning, such as received emails from unknown sender or unexpected friend requests on social media, so they can see how we would handle each situation. Ensure children know they can always ask without fear how to handle certain situations. It is important that children and teens feel comfortable coming to us with any questions or concerns about their online activity, even if they have made a mistake too.

Start early and keep it age appropriate. As parents and educators, it’s essential that we teach the next generation about cybersecurity. However, it’s important to tailor the education to be age-appropriate so as not to overwhelm them with the responsibility and the privilege when they aren’t ready. For younger children, this might mean teaching the importance of keeping personal information private, creating complex passwords and being skeptical of strangers online just as we promote stranger danger in person. For older children, additional topics such as phishing scams and data privacy could be covered. While it is a daunting task, limiting children’s exposure to the internet world while they are small can help them to digest small pieces of information illustrating responsibility, coupled with their parents guidance rather than taking it on all in on their own. 

Implement monitoring and tools for safety. In addition to education, there are tools that parents can consider as part of their arsenal. First, parents can implement safety tools such as household password managers and parental controls. These tools can help to protect children by preventing hackers from accessing their personal information. Parents can teach children about password safety and confidentiality. Children should be taught to create strong, unique passwords for their online accounts and to never share their passwords with anyone else. Second, Bark is a great tool that can notify parents if their child is exposed to harmful content online. iPhone parental controls can also help to limit your child’s access to inappropriate websites and apps. monitoring phone and device usage, even if the device is provided by the school, and using tools for safety such as iPhone parental controls, SafeSearch search engine parameters are also tools that can be very helpful. Finally, parents can keep phones in common spaces in the home so that we can see what they’re doing online. By implementing these measures, we decrease the threats but we can never eliminate the risk altogether. 

Limit social media usage. Another way to protect our kids is to limit their social media usage to age-appropriate platforms and to monitor their activity. As adults, we may not be active on the same platforms that children and teens would like to be. Consider adding your own account first to understand what risks and potential threats your child could see before agreeing to their usage. When children first have access to social media, parents can consider requiring that they have access to the password and/or view anything the child wants to post first. Keep social media accounts private and only accept friend requests from people you know in real life. While there are many threats to an online identity, thinking about cybersecurity, privacy, data protection and identity theft, these are some ways to protect and teach our youngest. 

 

Overall, the internet is a scary place for adults sometimes, let alone our kids. As the world is evolving very quickly with cyber hackers becoming increasingly sophisticated, it is essential to keep our children safe and at the forefront of our minds related to protection. The more they know, the better off they will be but in addition, will be more likely to solve this problem for future generations. Cybersecurity is a complex and ever-changing issue, and it is critical that we teach our children about the risks. Only by working together can we hope to keep the next generation safer in a digital world.

 

Additional Resources:

  1. https://www.cisecurity.org/insights/blog/6-educational-cybersecurity-resources-for-kids
  2. https://us.norton.com/internetsecurity-kids-safety-parents-best-practices-to-social-media-security.html

If you have questions about cybersecurity in your own organization, please don’t hesitate to contact us at Firefly. We would be happy to help!

Author avatar
Adam Jones