How many times have we heard the saying “Once out there you can’t take it back”? We say that to our children once too often regarding insults or hurting someone’s feelings. But are we as insistent about the subject when it comes to online activity? Are we teaching our kids that the same goes for social media posts or any other kind of online activity? Are our kids aware that online, more than anywhere else, is the place where once it’s out there you really cannot take it back?
In an era of social media, where everything gets posted from daily activities, foods we eat, things we buy to places we go, like vacation spots, one can only wonder how safe sharing all that with others really is.
The prime focus of educators is to educate kids so they have the necessary knowledge and confidence for when they enter the real world. Unfortunately, our kids are getting exposed to the harsh reality of this world a lot sooner than we would like, through social media. While access to the Internet places vast treasures of knowledge at their fingertips, it also exposes them and makes them vulnerable to dangers that lurk behind anonymous online identities.
Are we preparing our children to face the online world? Are we giving them the necessary education and tools to face emerging cyber threats like we have never seen before? Does our education system keep up with the constant changes in our society, including the technological ones?
Following are 6 major reasons for teaching cybersecurity in schools:
Selfies! It’s an ‘epidemic’! It seems a lot of people are guilty of this habit. Some of us cannot go a day without taking a few of them. Over 93 million selfies are taken every day worldwide (https://pumpic.com/security/why-selfies-are-bad/). We can see it all the time! The sad part though is that children as young as 6 years of age have joined the bandwagon. With kids having access to a smartphone and a social media account from a younger age, this represents an issue. While taking/posting selfies might seem harmless to them, it can lead to psychological problems like narcissism, egocentrism, or depression. Besides all the psychological implications, it is also a safety issue. Once a picture is posted online it remains there FOREVER, and while our children might think that it is only their friends and loved ones that have access to viewing their pictures, this is not entirely true. With a feature like ‘sharing’, those pictures can end up in the wrong hands and be posted on the wrong websites which can put their lives at risk. There are plenty of people with bad intentions out there, who could be looking to harm them and have the means and knowledge to do so.
- Location Services
While phone service providers are trying to convince us that it is always good to have your locations services turned on for your device, so you can track it down in case it is lost or stolen, that might not entirely be a good idea. Yes, it is good to have the ‘location’ feature turned on while using the GPS for directions to go somewhere, and yes, you do want to be able to locate your lost/stolen device, but the same way you are able to track it down, others might be too. One place where you might want to take the ‘location’ feature out completely, is your pictures and social media. Although we might think it is cool to post pictures of the places we visit, even just a quick trip to the cinema to see a movie, it is not safe to do so! Think about it! Would you tell a stalker all the time where you are? Would you inform a robber when you are not at home or go on vacation? You don’t have to! Location Services does that for you! You might want to disable that and teach others how to do it, especially ds.
In the online world, on social media, there is no such thing as privacy! Even though we like to think that we keep our ‘accounts’ private by using the ‘privacy settings’ they have to offer, people we never met can still have access to our posts and most of all, our pictures. It is enough for our friends to ‘like’ something we posted, this way their friends can see it, and so on until it goes, an all too familiar word, “viral”.
As if the school wasn’t tough enough already with all the bullying going on, now we have ‘cyberbullying’ to worry about! It has become such a huge problem over the past few years, that police departments across the country have a special task force dealing with cyberbullying. Needless to say, it is the same issue of bullying that has been going on for ages but at a larger scale, because it is done online. This means a lot more people can have access to it and chime in, which can make matters worse! Someone can post a non-flattering picture, or something mean about someone else with the intent of hurting them, which is something that can follow ‘the victim’ of that post for the rest of their lives!
- ID Theft
Together with online activity, there is also online purchases. Many of our children purchase things online from clothing, shoes, books, music to in-app purchases for games. They should be taught that not all websites that offer things for sale are ‘secure sites’. They should be taught how to distinguish a ‘secure site’ from a ‘non-secure site’ so that you as a parent don’t become the victim of ID theft and have someone empty your bank accounts or open other accounts in your name.
The last one on our list, but maybe the most important of all reasons, is safety! When we talk about online safety we might immediately think about having a good antivirus program. True, there is always a need for one of those that is constantly up to date, but safety encompasses so much more when it comes to our kids and their online activity. There are a lot of things they can do online that can put their safety at risk and we have mentioned a few of them already. There is one reason though that some of us might not always think of and I’m sure kids don’t think of. Online friends! We are not discussing here friends they already know in real life and they are now connected to through social media. We are talking about new friends they have ‘acquired’ through social media, someone they have never met in real life.
Being popular has always been a thing among kids, especially teenagers! Over the years popularity started being measured by how many ‘online friends’ we have on our social media accounts and how many ‘likes’ we get for our posts! Are our kids aware though of how dangerous it can be to ‘friend’ someone they have never met? For example: “Maggie, a 14-year old girl, became friends with Josh, a 16-year old boy, who, judging by his pictures and writing is cute and smart. Josh has a way with words and shows interest in Maggie, which makes her want to meet him. So, she arranges a date, place and time to do so. Little does Maggie know that Josh can be either a 40-year old perpetrator hiding under the profile of a teenage boy, looking for his next victim or a member of a human trafficking link looking for their next target. Once arrived at the meeting spot, Maggie could be gone forever!” While our scenario is imagined, it is based on similar real-life events. Are we raising awareness in our kids, when it comes to this? Is safety their number one priority and more so, online safety?
Helpful Tips for Kids and Teenagers
A few helpful tips that kids and Teenagers might want to keep in mind while using the internet are:
- Never post hurtful/embarrassing pictures or messages about someone else
- Once something is on the Internet it is there forever
- Things you post could affect your college admission and the rest of your life
- Use the privacy settings that are offered to you the right way, if you’re not familiar ask an adult for help
- Don’t use location services when posting
- Do not ‘friend’ someone online if you don’t already know them in real life
- Always be aware and alert during your online activity
- When in doubt, ask an adult!
- Make sure your devices are always protected with a good anti-malware program, like Norton Security
We cannot stress enough the importance of teaching cybersecurity in our schools, so our kids can be more aware of things that can put their safety and lives at risk!
The only issue with teaching cybersecurity in schools could be though, that educators are not totally up to date with the subject themselves or that they might not feel comfortable enough teaching the subject out of lack of familiarity. That is why there is help!
There are a couple of ways to get training for educators. There is always the Internet where you can find sources like the NICCS (National Initiative for Cybersecurity Careers and Studies), an online resource managed by the Department of Homeland Security, or you can always seek the help of more experienced cybersecurity professionals. At CMIT Solutions of Anaheim West, we are here to help!