How to Begin
We recommend that you begin with an online safety quiz to test your students’ knowledge. This will hopefully interest them in learning more about cybersecurity, and allow them to discover what they don’t know.
It will also give you the opportunity to evaluate their knowledge and create lesson plans accordingly. For example, if you find that your students already know a great deal about creating strong passwords, you may not need to include this topic in your curriculum.
We recommend using:
· the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children’s Staying Safe Online-Quiz (note that it has some UK-specific references)
When it comes to planning your cybersecurity curriculum, we have a few broader suggestions. We recommend that you:
Have students read or watch stories of actual people or organizations that have suffered from cyber attacks. This will help students understand that the consequences of cybersecurity issues are real and serious. Some examples of these types of stories include:
o “How ransomware hackers ‘prey on people’s willingness to click’” – CBS News article and video
o “Cyber Bullies Drove My Daughter to Commit Suicide” – This Morning video (Note: this content discusses suicide)
o “How Chatting with Strangers Could Ruin a Child’s Life” – Online Sense.org article and video (Note: mention of pedophiles, rape, and murder)
o “The Untold Story of NotPetya, the Most Devastating Cyberattack in History” – Wired magazine article (Note: this content includes some curse words)
o “Man charged with cyberstalking ex-classmate for more than a decade” – Fox News KTVU article (Note: this content mentions rape and murder)
o “How One Woman’s Digital Life Was Weaponized Against Her” – Wired magazine article (Note: this content involves cyberstalking and harassment. It is explicit and adult. It includes sexual descriptions, curse words, and discussions of suicide and violence.)
· Give students visual examples of cybersecurity threats. Showing students what phony ads, messages, and pop-ups look like will help them better identify and avoid them. This may be especially helpful for students who are visual learners.
· Involve students in your lesson planning by asking them about their experiences and designing your curriculum accordingly. For instance, if your students are already very familiar with social media security, there may be no reason to cover this topic in your lessons. Similarly, if students are particularly worried about malware, you could spend more time on this subject.
· Assign interactive, practical homework. Just as interactive lessons are more effective, useful homework assignments may help students better learn the basics of cybersecurity. For example, you could give students a homework assignment to secure their devices and accounts. You might also have them write an essay about the dangers of public wi-fi and describe how they are going to avoid these.
Studying Social Media Safety
No matter how you approach your cybersecurity curriculum, we believe you must include a section on social media. These types of online platforms are widely used and very vulnerable to cybersecurity issues.
In 2018, the Pew Research Center reported that 85% of teens use YouTube, 72% use Instagram, 69% use Snapchat, 51% use Facebook, and 32% use Twitter. Only 3% of teens don’t use any common social media platforms, which means approximately 97% do.
Social media can be dangerous for children and teens; Cyberbullies can attack your students on these platforms, scammers can attempt to steal young people’s sensitive information, and cyberstalkers can use their posts to follow them, just to name a few.
We recommend that one of your first cybersecurity lessons teaches students how to protect their social media accounts. A few key ideas to cover include:
· Passwords. It is vital that students create strong passwords for all of their accounts, and especially their social media profiles. These accounts often contain sensitive information cyber attackers could use against them. You should inform students to
· Have strong passwords
· Privacy settings. Tell your students not to simply go with the default privacy settings for their social media accounts. They should set their accounts to be as private as possible. At the very least, their sensitive social media data and pictures should not be publicly visible.
· Personal information. Your students should never share personal information on social media. This includes their date of birth, address, full name, social security number, credit card information, and similar data.
· Virus protection. Some malware, phishing, and other scams come from social media. If students are active online, they should have antivirus software installed on all of their devices.
· “Think before you click.” Since cyber scams are unfortunately quite common, students should be wary of any social media messages that ask them to act immediately or provide personal information. You should let them know that scammers often offer something too good to be true in exchange for private data.
· Online reputation. As we’ve mentioned above, your students’ online reputations could impact their ability to get into college or get the jobs they want. In addition, a poor online reputation could lead to or worsen cyberbullying and cause problems with students’ parents. As the National Cyber Security Alliance’s Stay Safe Online site explains, “what you post online stays online. Think twice before posting pictures [or any other information] you wouldn’t want your parents or future employers to see.”
· Report issues to social media platforms. Tell students that if they’re being cyberbullied, scammed, or otherwise harassed on social media, they should report these activities to the social media sites themselves. These types of activities are usually against social media platforms’ rules and the company may be able to help.
· Ask an adult for help if needed. Encourage students to ask for assistance if they feel unsafe or uncomfortable. Remind them that they can come to you, their parents, or other trusted adults if they encounter any problems.
These crucial concepts should definitely be included in your cybersecurity curriculum.
Other Resources and Tools for Teachers
If you’d like further information and/or lesson plan suggestions, we recommend:
· “Bits N Bytes Cybersecurity” by Kyla Guru. A 16-year-old high school junior created this award-winning website on cybersecurity. It includes activity resources.
· “STOP. THINK. CONNECT.™” by the National Cyber Security Alliance and other organizations. This site offers tip sheets, memes, graphics, videos, posters, and research materials for many areas of cybersecurity.
· “Digital Safety Resources: Tools for the classroom and home” by Google’s Be Internet Awesome Project. This offers curriculum and educational games on digital citizenship.
· “The 5 Best Internet Safety Resources for Teachers” by E-Learning Industry. This article lists some of the best educational sites for cybersecurity and similar subjects.
· “Cyber Security for Beginners” by Heimdal Security. This free course teaches cybersecurity to beginners and includes a free security self-assessment PDF cheat sheet you can use to help determine how much your students already know.
In addition, if you want to combine playing and learning about cybersecurity, you can enter your school or class into a coding competition. The Australian Digital Technologies Hub offers competitions in robotics, coding, and tech, Grok Learning offers coding and AI training and competitions to students of all levels, and Code Chef offers a unique international coding competition. You can search online for similar opportunities in your local area.