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Playing it safe online

 

 

Digital safety is an important topic that should be taught at school and at home, writes Founder of ScopeIT Education, Frank Lucisano.

Increasingly we are seeing media articles, newsletters from schools or TV news reports talking about digital safety. In nearly all cases it is about bullying, cyber-stalking or awareness of predators online. These are absolutely essential topics for discussion and should be part of any 21st century educational curriculum, preferably both in school and also taught at home within the family.

However, all too often, some really important elements of digital safety that extend well beyond these topics are left out off the agenda. As more and more of our lives and our children’s lives transition online, there are some other critical elements that need attention as well.

Online Footprints (Privacy)

Before initiating a talk on privacy, we must all accept that generations change and cultures evolve. What we as adults, parents and teachers believe is important in matters of privacy, may be very much changing right before our eyes. Our values, though important, need to respect this ever changing aspect of the next generation. Having said that, it is our responsibility to guide and educate our children on the negative aspects of online privacy issues.

It is important to educate children to understand that the ‘online universe’ doesn’t forget. The rude or inappropriate thing ‘little Sally’ says in the playground is normally heard by very few and soon forgotten. The Facebook message, Instagram picture or SMS is online for many, if not all to see. It is also in most likelihood there forever. There are no ‘take backs’ online.

It is rather futile and perhaps socially damaging to enforce a ban on these technologies for our children. We must teach them to simply think before posting. Saying “your boss one day might not hire you” is in most cases too far in their distant future for them to care. Maybe bring it closer to home; “Would you say/show that to your grandmother?”

Picture Sharing

We have all become very aware of the selfie-epidemic. While we can view this as a little vain, perhaps self indulgent, we must not ignore the potential consequences of picture sharing when talking about digital safety. Similar to posting and commenting with words, we need to be sure we are happy with everyone seeing the picture. Regardless of privacy settings, auto-deletions and other ‘protection’ mechanisms, a picture shared with one person can ultimately be shared with anybody and everybody. If you or your child isn’t comfortable with the entire world seeing that picture today perhaps it’s better never posted. These are the discussions we need to have.

Scams

“Congratulations, you’re a winner!” Have you received this SMS or email? What about “This is Microsoft Tech support and we have found a problem with your system?” These are both very common technology scams. They are often designed in clever ways to take advantage of the unsuspecting. Predatory tactics are not only reserved for those trying to take advantage of our young physically, but also financially. Teaching critical thinking skills is vital to many aspects of life, but perhaps none more so when one is targeted directly with tailored communications designed to deceive. Teaching students to be aware of these scams and ways to avoid and report them are important to ensure financial security online.

Password Protection/Security

Instagram, Facebook, Email, iCloud, Google, your bank PIN… our password lists go on and on. How many of us either use the most simple passwords we can remember or even worse, use the same one for multiple accounts? This can be a nightmare when things go sour. Once one account is cracked, the use of that password and possibly coupled with ‘social engineering’ (clever ways to scam information out of third parties about you, normally involving humans rather than hacking) can result in identity theft. Before you know it, someone owns and controls your digital online life, your accounts and all that goes with it. Knowing how password security works, what makes a good password and how to use password managers is an extremely valuable skill for young (and old!) users in the digital landscape.

Importance of Action

Digital citizenship is an important part of any child’s digital technologies education. If we are to prepare our students today for their technological future, including jobs of the future, then we must not underestimate how vulnerable our young people are in this environment.

Teaching or discussing online bullying, cyber stalking or online predators is simply not enough. The proliferation of online scams, the ever-increasing social media platforms designed for children are impossible to keep up with. We simply must include ‘social and digital responsibility’ in its broadest sense in our classrooms and homes so that our children are able to self-manage in these environments.

ScopeIT Education (www.scopeITeducation.edu.au) is one of the world’s leading primary aged IT education organisations, teaching over 14,000 students every week across Australia and South East Asia. It specialises in ensuring students are equipped with the necessary skills to further their education and employment prospects. ScopeIT Education has courses in Digital Citizenship and Safety and many other courses now, ready to implement in schools.