Cybersecurity education from childhood is a vital tool: 72% of children worldwide have experienced at least one type of cyber threat
January 2024 by Check Point
• 90% of children over 8 years old are already using Internet.
• Only 40% of parents are aware that their children have faced cyber threats.
Education is the cornerstone of our culture, as it allows us to progress as a society and we can share with the new generations values and knowledge that we consider essential. In an increasingly digitised society, and especially considering that children are using technology more and more at an earlier age, it is crucial for education to focus on how to use this global tool safely. Technology offers great advantages in education, culture and entertainment, but also presents some risks that they need to know.
The report “Why Children are Unsafe in Cyberspace” from the Global Cybersecurity Forum has found that 72% of children around the world have experienced at least one type of cyber threat online. This is very alarming because it can impact the mental and physical health, integrity and privacy of the youngest people. The report attests to the growing challenges faced in protecting children in cyberspace, especially in times when 90% of children over 8 years old are already active online but only 40% of their parents are aware that their child have experienced a cyber threat in the past.
Check Point Software Technologies considers that even if the efforts to respond with increased awareness and implement new security measures are growing, they are still not enough. The threats faced by children are very different and, in most cases, they are not aware of them and parents are clueless about these threats as well. It is therefore critical to take preventive measures now to ensure the protection of children online. These are some of the main measures to protect them:
1. Learning cybersecurity through play: play is always a great tool to teach children, because when they learn having fun, they acquire concepts more effectively. In this way, practical exercises can be proposed that simulate threats so they will learn how to protect themselves. It is also possible to develop apps and online games to help them acquire this knowledge, recognise threats, and know how to protect their personal data.
2. Ethics as a banner: teaching cybersecurity always comes with an ethical component because it is very important to instil ethical principles for the development of future responsible citizens. The development of technological skills should come with a conscious use of them.
3. Demystifying the hacker: it is essential that children understand all the complexities of this figure. A hacker can be a cybercriminal who causes harm to the computer systems but that there are also “good hackers” or “White hats” that use their computer knowledge ethically to identify potential system breaches or errors in companies and fix them to prevent attacks.
4. Cybersecurity in the educational curriculum: one of the main strategies to prevent threats affecting minors is cybersecurity education in school. Cybersecurity is a pending subject in schools, and it would be very useful to raise awareness among children about risks and to teach them some tools to protect themselves. For this, it is crucial to have educators with digital knowledge and highly recommended that they offer such cybersecurity talks so that parents can also have some basic knowledge of how to help their child protect themselves online.
5. Creating a secure network: children also need to know how to create secure networks to prevent potential threats, one of the most common being phishing. This threat lies in using emails to deceive people into clicking on malicious links or attachments. Sometimes, these emails are very difficult to detect, especially for children, because they appear to come from a familiar person, such as a friend or a family member. For this reason, it is necessary for them to learn how to detect when a cyberattack may be compromising their network, use secure passwords as an additional barrier, protect their social media where they spend a lot of hours on, and recognise phishing attacks.
It is very harmful that children at such young ages are exposed to cyber risks, because it could jeopardise their emotional health, physical integrity, and privacy. In this way, it is essential that children receive cybersecurity education to know how to identify threats and have tools to respond with. In this sense, kids can feel safer online, and at the same time we are building a more aware and responsible society in the use of new technologies.