Huge Gaps Exist in Internet Safety Education

Staysafe Online released today a new study on the state of  U.S. K‐12 Cyberethics, Cybersafety and Cybersecurity Curriculum, and it’s a sobering read.

15 years after the Internet went mainstream, America’s young people still are not receiving adequate instruction in the use of digital technology and cyberspace navigation in a safe, secure and responsible manner and are ill-prepared to address these subjects, according to the study.

Among the study findings:

  • There is strong agreement on the need to teach online skills: Nearly all technology coordinators (100%), school administrators (97%), and teachers (95%) agree cyberethics, cybersafety, and cybersecurity curriculum should be taught in schools.
  • Confusion reigns on where the responsibility for internet skills education lies. Teachers (72%) and technology coordinators (58%) are most likely to think parents are primarily responsible for teaching children to use computers safely and securely, while school administrators (51%) are most likely to think teachers/schools are primarily responsible.
  • Who teaches the teachers? The lack of clarity over who should teach internet skills  may be due in large part to the lack of training teachers have received on these subjects. Over three quarters of teachers have spent less than six hours on any type of professional development education related to cyberethics, cybersafety and cybersecurity within the last 12 months.
  • More than half schools/school districts require content coverage in cyberethics cybersafety and cybersecurity – but that means nearly half of the schools don’t.
  • Integration of key cyberethics, -security, and -safety topics into everyday instructional activities is low. For example, only 27% of teachers taught about the safe use of social networks, only 18% taught about scams, fraud and social engineering, and only 19% taught about safe passwords in the past 12 months. Additionally, 32% of teachers indicated they had not taught cyberethics, and 44% of teachers had not taught cybersafety or cybersecurity.
  • Rather than teach skills and ethics, schools focus on blocking technologies. Over 90% of schools have installed digital defenses, like as filtering and blocking social network sites. Blocking technologies may help reduce exposure to online risks in school, and limit school’s liability, but they do not prepare students to act safely or responsibly when accessing the Internet in other locations.

Addressing the research findings, Jacqueline Beauchere, a Director in Microsoft Corporation’s Trustworthy Computing Group and the company’s representative to NCSA’s Board of Directors said, “Schools can be assisted via partnerships between public and private-sector entities. Such partnerships encourage information and idea-sharing and, most importantly, help give teachers the training they need and want so they can instruct their students about cybersecurity, cybersafety and cyberethics.  Microsoft supports efforts to provide teacher training, and is proud to be one partner, helping to provide K-12 educators across the U.S. the resources they need and the training they seek.”

The ramifications of this gap in internet education not places our youth at risk today, but has a long term impact in how well situated the US will be to compete in the global economy moving forward.

“The study illuminates that there is no cohesive effort to provide young people the education they need to safely and securely navigate the digital age and prepare them as digital citizens and employees,” said Michael Kaiser, Executive Director of the National Cyber Security Alliance.  “Unfortunately, we are not meeting the needs of schools, teachers, or students.  President Obama in his Cyberspace Policy Review released last year specifically calls for a ‘K-12 cybersecurity education program for digital safety, ethics and security.’ Now is the time for a national consensus to move forward to achieve that goal.”




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