Importance of Cybersecurity Lessons in Schools

Are you aware that there are more than 460 million internet users in India, and this is expected to grow to around 635.8 million by 2021? Or, that nearly 81% of kids between the ages of 8-16 are active on social media? Or, that of the children who are active on social media, 69% have published photos, 58% have posted their email address and 44% would meet or have met someone in person that they first met online?

Just goes to show, that our kids are tech-smart but not very cybersafety conscious. To make the Digital India dream come true and benefit the nation, internet users must be well-versed in cybersecurity and cyber etiquette. As our kids will be tomorrow’s India, bringing them up to be model digital citizens should be a top priority. Where can they get this knowledge? Schools, without a doubt.

Let’s think about why it is important to teach cybersafety in school:

  • Children accept teachers as information providers and give credence to their words
  • Cybersafety training can be tailored according to age and grade
  • Group learning helps in building virtual social bonds, and confidence
  • Campaigns, contests and bulletin boards can be used to promote better virtual behaviour
  • New lectures similar to value education can be taken up to teach online etiquette. Many schools have been organizing such cybersafety sessions, but it needs to become a regular feature

I asked some educators what their views were on internet safety and digital citizenship in the school curriculum and this is what they said:

It is the need of the hour,” said Sunita Rajiv, assistant headmistress, at Ahlcon International School, New Delhi.

It’s a must,” said Ritu Sehji, educator, author, presenter, based in New Zealand.

What should be the learning outcomes of cybersecurity sessions?

Children should:

  • Stay informed about cybersafety and cyber civics
  • Know how to identify dangers and tackle them
  • Make informed decisions online
  • Learn how to surf in a secure environment
  • Use the internet to learn and build a network

 

The main points to be covered in the cyber security sessions:

  • Social Media: etiquette; safety; mutual respect; diplomacy; language; content
  • The norms of sharing: How much to share; what not to share and with whom; Too much sharing and future effects
  • The importance of privacy: How to secure devices; accounts; profile; passwords
  • Scams, Spams, hacking: Attachments and links in mails and posts; key words to look out for
  • Block and report accounts: When to consider this option-How to keep records; whom to inform; how to block and report
  • Identify fake: How to identify fake profiles and messages; how to authenticate data before sharing; how to block and report cyberbullies and predators
  • Dares, challenges and other risky games: How to identify peer pressure and avoid them; understand that such risky challenges are the new faces of cyberbullying and how to counteract them; how to tackle online bullying; creating support group for victims
  • Footprints in the digital sands of time: How posts have future implications, and may impact college admissions and/or career. How to remove posts and photos shared and sanitize social media accounts
  • Smartphone safety: Using security apps, GPS, geotagging, selfie risks
  • Financial risks: e-transactions

It will be a great idea to set up information kiosks or designate a bulletin board where the latest updates on internet safety can be shared. Further, schools need to sensitize parents and organize cyber security awareness seminars for them. The presence of a dedicated counsellor to advise and guide kids on issues pertaining to cybersafety will be of great help to children and parents alike.

And always wind up your lessons with the cybersafety mantra- STOP. THINK. CONNECT.

 

 

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Be a Social Media-Savvy Parent For Your Kids

If your kids are ready to join the social media bandwagon, but you are completely lost when it comes to the new apps trending among teens then it’s time to learn about how to help your children stay safe in the digital world.

According to a ‘We are Social’ study, the number of social network users in India was nearly 191 million in Q1 2017 and is expected to rise tremendously

These figures should be a wakeup call to us parents. Your child is or will soon become a social media user and you need to know everything there is to know about these platforms in time to guide them. We don’t want to wait for another Blue Whale Challenge, Sarahah app or the new 48-hour challenge. These games are now becoming the new faces of cyberbullying to jolt us out of our comfort zones.

The only way to teach is to know and therefore it is important for you to stay ahead and learn about popular social media apps that your child is likely to use.

Indian kids are on Facebook, WhatsApp, Snapchat, YouTube, and Hike. I am sure you are familiar with Facebook and WhatsApp, let’s quickly refresh our memory about the rest:

Instagram: It started out as a photo and video sharing app that allows users to tweak and filter pics before sharing. Now users can also send messages, stickers, conduct polls on stories and connect with likeminded users. The instant feedback users receive can be a real ‘feel-good’ factor.

YouTube: This one is a favourite with gamers, home chefs, amateur artists and comedians. Users upload their videos for general or select viewing and can subscribe to channels of their preference.

Snapchat: This app created waves when it launched because it allows users to capture videos and pictures that self-destruct after a few seconds. However, it’s good to remember that receivers can take screenshots and save pics

For all these apps, signing up is easy. Just download the app, create a strong password and use a comprehensive security software with password manager.

What are the privacy and security options recommended? First, ensure that your children meet the minimum age criteria to join any of the social media accounts. Then, be sure to share general safety tips like the ones below.

  • Public or private: Do you want anyone and everyone to see your profiles and posts? Probably not, so turn your account from public to private.
  • Enable two-factor authentication: This is a must to ensure that only you can access your account. It will require a password plus another factor (example: OTP sent to mobile phone) to prevent misuse of your social account.
  • Profile Information: Apps need your profile information but there is no reason why you have to share them with others. Also, think about your profile name and photo. Consider whether you would like to use your real name and pic or an Avatar? Your friends know you anyway, and those who are strangers, don’t need to know all about you.
  • Block and report: This feature comes handy when someone bothers you. You can manually select the follower from your friend/follower list and block and report the account.
  • Turn off geotagging: This feature allows all your friends and followers to identify your exact location. Keep it turned off and check pics to see if they are geotagged. If yes, then remove tagging
  • Tagging in photos: It is considered improper to tag people in group pics without prior permission. Also, review pics in which you are tagged before allowing them on your timeline
  • 3rd Party Access: Periodically review whether you have given access to any 3rd party and revoke access to apps you don’t need or that ask for access to too many files
  • Language: Did you know typing in bold caps is akin to shouting? Or that making rude or sarcastic comments on others’ posts is cyberbullying? Also, be careful when using acronyms that you got the right meaning
  • Conduct: Good etiquettes come in handy online. Maintain decorum, as if you are in a drawing room having a polite conversation. To know more about digital etiquettes, refer to my blog
  • THINK. CONNECT. Always think before posting about whether the photo or text is decent, correct, verified, or useful. Don’t share sensitive content or connect with strangers who insist on knowing a lot of personal details about you.

Nowadays, we get inundated with new trends on social media, which frequently create a frenzy among kids. A bit of awareness, frequent communication and supervision can help us ensure their cyber safety along with making us a cool cyber savvy parent.

Next time your kids go online, take the opportunity to engage more with them and show off your social media skills.