With everything happening in the world today, many of us feel like we’re living in uncertain times. This is especially true for kids and students, who face threats we never even dreamed of when we were their age. Not least is the threat of cybercrime both at school and at home, which is why it is so important that we give educators and caretakers the tools they need to defend students against any number of digital attacks. From foundational internet safety and literacy to best practices when it comes to devising security, there are countless tools and systems on the market geared toward helping minimize the risk of cybercrime for today’s youth, but not all of these have been created equally. What are the most important factors to consider when choosing exactly how to go about teaching students to take control of their digital lives, and what approach will result in the most solid defense?
One route that has been popular among schools and other institutions where children frequently use online devices is the utilization of monitoring and filtering software. This can be an important tool in the fight against cybercrime, and many of these products offer an impressive suite of features. Some of the popular features of this kind of software often include things like content monitoring, alerts sent to parents and teachers, filters that block certain content categories, and time limits on device usage. The passive nature of this kind of software makes it easy to implement on a large scale, and it can begin to fade into the background as part of the day-to-day digital landscape for students where such programs are in place.
Another type of product often used in schools as the main line of defense against cybercrime is using software integrated as part of a larger learning platform. Since the focus is not entirely on cyber security, these kinds of systems can go a step beyond simple monitoring and filtering software when it comes to blending into the scenery. Teachers might build an entire online learning space for their students that just so happens to have built-in cyber security features running behind the scenes.
Regardless of particular monitoring and/or filtering products’ scope, functionality, or ability to be integrated into existing systems, they are all limited by the simple fact that no program is perfect. Every system has its flaws, and, unfortunately, no one is better at finding the cracks in the armor than cyber criminals. The classic “teach a man to fish” metaphor holds true in this case. Equipping schools with robust software is an important part of a holistic cyber security plan, but it will never be a full solution to all digital threats because, by their nature, a software program can only react to what has already happened. The fact that they often blend into the background can be a double-edged sword as well. Although it can be beneficial from a monitoring standpoint for a product to function relatively unnoticed by students, this can also create a sense of complacency. Students get used to having the safety net of a filtering system that automatically blocks certain content. Instead of learning to protect themselves in dicey situations, they can be drawn into a false sense of security and left to fend for themselves with no real cyber security skills to draw upon in a context outside of school.
To truly address the issue of online vulnerability it is important that we empower students with the skills and knowledge to keep themselves safe in the digital world. Surf Wisely is one of the few platforms on the market that actually takes a proactive approach to teach cyber security best practices. Instead of waiting for threats and warning signs to appear, Surf Wisely uses a gamified curriculum based on familiar sports language and imagery to engage students and put them in the driver’s seat when it comes to their own safety online. This prepares them for the reality of life outside the safety of the classroom and sets them up for success for years to come.
Digital interactions are becoming an increasingly important part of daily adult life, both professionally and personally, with many people forming thriving careers entirely online. The only way to safely navigate the vast array of digital spaces we come across is to do so with a certain level of confidence, self-reliance, and caution. These are all traits that Surf Wisely can help foster in students with the goal of helping them grow into responsible, well-protected online citizens. Yes, passive software that runs in the background is an important part of an institution’s cyber safety strategy, but in order to fully protect students as individuals from the first time they log onto a social media platform or activate their first smartphone, we have to give them the tools to protect themselves through intentional education in a way that feels fun and engaging!