The internet is full of threats, hackers, spyware, viruses, phishing, and even predators. Virtually everyone has fallen victim to the first three and unfortunately every day there is a new story about someone falling victim to the last one, too. This makes sense as most of these issues are virtually never explicitly taught. I, myself, am a digital native, but I learned most of my online lessons the hard way. In the past, cyber awareness has not really been a priority. As the world moves more and more online, it only makes sense that we start to prepare students for digital life.
We need to start teaching cyber threats in school. While students are online anyway, now is the best time to start.
Teaching students about cyber threats like hacking, and phishing really is no longer an option in this day and age. Every year, millions of Americans have their accounts hacked or their identities stolen costing everyone billions of dollars. Most of the time these attempts on their information are entirely preventable with better password practices or knowledge of common email and phishing scams.
I have actually managed a lot of the account information for students at my school. We let them choose their own password for a lot of applications. Guess what half of them choose? 123456. Foolishly, we usually let them because nothing is more frustrating than a lesson being derailed by a forgotten password, but it is a bad habit and will cost them in the future. Which means it is something we should probably teach explicitly.
The potential threats to their technology, or bank accounts in the future pale in comparison to the threats to their safety, and this is something we need to teach as well. When I was in school, we had the lady come and talk to us about “stranger danger.” “Don’t get into cars with people you don’t know.” This threat still exists and, unfortunately, has adapted to the internet. However, even though the threat itself has evolved, our teachings about it has not. The vast majority of students will experience their first “stranger danger” moment online, and it is happening earlier and earlier in places people aren’t even thinking about. Predators aren’t just hanging out in seedy chat rooms. They are on social media, Xbox Live, even playing Minecraft.
In many cases now, the schools are actually providing the internet and the technology. You can’t argue that these lessons are the sole dominion of parents when most of their screen on online time now comes from school. It is now the responsibility of schools and educators to help students curb risky behavior.
E-learning presents a unique opportunity, and many would argue responsibility to educate students on the dangers and threats of cyber space. Often, we take for granted that students simply know these things as they are digital natives. Unfortunately, there is no shortage of news stories that prove that is not the case, and we need to be proactive.