The Great Debate: Should Cybersecurity Be Added to School Curricula?

In the United States, most students have access to computers in their homes and in their classroom. What was once treated as a field trip to head down to the computer lab is now an everyday occurrence for students as young as three.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 94 percent of children ages three to 18 use computers for educational purposes, and 61 percent of this population has access to the internet. This highlights an alarming issue related to cybersecurity issues in our country’s schools today.

While having computer literacy is important in a culture increasingly dependent upon its use, there is a lack of competence around the role that cybersecurity plays in the classroom. Schools are becoming targets for hackers as ransomware and phishing attacks are seen as viable threats to school districts.

Now, the conversation among educators and parents alike is should our kids be given cybersecurity lessons and curriculum include cybersecurity and digital hygiene.

Cybersecurity Education Awareness

Some countries have floated the idea of adopting official guidelines to make sure that children are taught about the risks they face online. This could include spam, online harassment, illegal activity, interacting with those they shouldn’t, and leaving the door open to potential cybersecurity hacks.

Some teachers and administrators may be well-versed in technology of today and even use it in their daily teaching, but merely as a convenience and way to streamline teaching. This is a great way to digitize and modernize the way students are adapting to education, but it still doesn’t address the very real need to teach about the importance of cybersecurity.

Schools are asked to do a lot online, such as process private information and harbor grades, valuable information to cyber hackers looking to hold as ransom.

Main Reasons Why Cybersecurity Should Be Taught in Schools

Cybersecurity curricula can cover a wide swath of everyday uses and very real threats that affect students, teachers, and schools today. Beyond cyber-hacking issues, like stealing information for improper use, school children face many different kinds of cybersecurity problems and issues related to cyber health.

Here are a few examples:

Cyberbullying: Cyberbullying has been around for some time now, especially since the advent of social media sites like Facebook and MySpace. But in recent years it has become an even bigger problem. A lot more people have access to information today and can speak their mind, even if it’s just to make someone feel bad or embarrassed.

Identity Theft: E-commerce has skyrocketed in the last decade as sites like Amazon and eBay are selling everything from clothes to cars. Many of today’s kids have access to these sites and make purchases under their parents’ payment information, opening the door to potential bad activity and identity theft. They should be made aware of how to distinguish a secure site from a non-secure one to keep the potential for identity theft low.

Online Safety: While a solid antivirus program can help instill more safety and awareness, it helps to look at online safety under broad terms. There are a lot of things that put a school’s computer network and students at risk. Knowing how to interact with websites and friends online should be taught in order to limit risky behavior.