Younger generations are more exposed to technology than ever before, and cyberattackers target any vulnerable users.
Cybersecurity education is being introduced in K-12 environments to answer the exponential growth in use of digital technologies in classrooms. Laurie Guyon, Coordinator for Model Schools at the Washington-Saratoga-Warren-Hamilton-Essex Board of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES) in Gansevoort, New York, sees the importance of teaching young tech users about how they can protect themselves from cyber threats.
"Cyber hackers are not limiting attacks to just older people, so we need to teach our students how to protect themselves in this connected world," said Guyon. "When students start kindergarten, we teach them how to hold a pencil, use their devices, and behave in the classroom and on the playground. Since our students are using technology, we need to showcase the appropriateness of how to behave online as well."
Cybersecurity education in the K-12 space includes increasing students' risk awareness about cyber threats and how they can protect their personal information. According to Guyon, "Stranger danger, what is appropriate to share, and how to be aware of your surroundings are essential in the physical world and the digital world."
In order to introduce cyber safety lessons to K-12 students, some schools overseen by BOCES have incorporated the Sphero BOLT, a robot that teaches coding and cybersecurity in K-12 classrooms.
"I spent time in a 6th-grade classroom teaching lessons on cybersecurity with Sphero BOLT. As soon as you roll in with robots, the students are instantly more engaged," said Guyon. In addition to coding, the focus on security has benefitted students in classrooms that use the robot.
"The Sphero BOLT demonstrates the often tricky cybersecurity concepts through small group and whole-group activities. For example, during the cyberbullying lesson, the students learned the impact negativity could have on the joy they have in their favorite activities. They also learned ways to prevent and minimize the effect that cyberbullying can have on themselves and others."
In addition to lessons on protecting their personal data, the robot introduces lessons on more advanced cybersecurity topics, such as ethical hacking, security awareness, information security and the foundations of computer science. According to Guyon, "the activities fostered communication, critical thinking and problem-solving skills, which we know are essential soft skills needed in our workforce."