Top tips for teaching kids about cybersecurity

Cybersecurity has taken center stage. Kids are living in a time captivated by the Internet of Things and they are continually bombarded with news articles describing the conflicts and challenges associated with online data and internet privacy. 

In a recent article for Science World, a Scholastic classroom magazine for students in grades 6–10 that covers today’s biggest scientific discoveries relevant to students, associate editor Jacob Batchelor dove into the topic for kids. The article explains how the devices so many of us own are connected to the Internet which makes the web vulnerable to attack. With careers in STEM fields growing and with the increasing prevalence of internet-connected devices in our everyday lives, it’s important for students to know about cybersecurity and potential threats from hackers.

Recently, Jacob contributed a story to THE Journal titled “You've Been Hacked! Explaining Cybersecurity to Students in an Interconnected Era,” which offers important tips for teaching kids about cybersecurity. Below is an excerpt from the article which offers recommendations that students can use to protect their privacy while using smartphones

You can read the full-length article online here.

“The dangers of unsupervised web surfing are well known. We teach children not to talk to strangers online, to never give away personally identifying information and to always use strong passwords. But smartphones have changed the equation. Not only do these devices provide constant access to the open web, but they put video and audio recording capabilities — not to mention GPS — on a person at all times. Privacy vulnerability is a huge concern.

A great teaching moment occurred last year with the release of Pokémon Go. Like many apps, the game connected with users’ Gmail accounts. But because of a coding error, many users unwittingly granted full access to their email accounts to the creators of the game. The company quickly fixed the error, and no data was compromised. But the incident shed light on just how easy it is to share digital information with apps.

Here are a few tips that students can use to protect their privacy while using smartphones:

  • Research apps before signing up for them. Is it from a reputable developer? Has it had security issues in the past? Use the same approach as when researching IoT devices.
  • Look over the terms of service. What information does it require? Does it track or store your data? Can the developer sell your information? All of these questions are important to consider.
  • Be careful when linking apps to your social media accounts. Giving apps access to your social media accounts makes them vulnerable to hacking. Is there a good reason for the accounts to be linked? Can you sign up without linking to a social media account?
  • Use two-factor authentication. Two-factor authentication requires authorization beyond a password when using unrecognized devices such as entering a code sent to your cellphone. As apps allow, be sure to use two-factor authentication which will make it more difficult for hackers to access the information stored in your apps.”

Scholastic