This is a guest blog post by Dahlia Anderson.
As teachers, parents, and guardians, the responsibility of ensuring cybersecurity in the online classrooms of our elementary students falls into our hands. In an age where online tools like Google Meets, Zoom, and Slack are becoming regular parts of the day-to-day schooling of our children, we need to be on top of cybersecurity at all times.
So what can we do to ensure cybersecurity hygiene in today’s virtual classrooms? From public and private initiatives to the programs at online and brick-and-mortar universities, there are many examples from which today’s digital elementary teachers can take inspiration.
Cybersecurity hygiene fundamentals
The inherent inquisitiveness of children makes them particularly vulnerable to endangering themselves and others while interacting with different platforms online. This is why increasing awareness tops the U.S. Department of Education’s list of ways to keep kids safe on the web. This includes teaching them about core concepts like cybersecurity, virus protection, cyberbullying, and netiquette. In terms of actual cybersecurity hygiene, kids should also be taught to never give out sensitive personal information such as their name, address, or numbers, during any exchanges with strangers online. It’s also crucial for kids to know about and practice password hygiene: frequently changing passwords and knowing how to mix different characters for strength. All this can allow you to monitor their online activity, as well as ensure that any activity that you can’t monitor is done within safe and established online classroom boundaries.
Gamify cybersecurity skills training
It won’t be easy to get each and every child in class to be highly and personally invested in maintaining cybersecurity hygiene. One of the most effective ways to overcome this has been the gamification of cybersecurity skills training. Created by the University of Detroit Mercy’s Center director for Cyber Security & Intelligence Studies, Tamara Shoemaker, the Michigan CyberPatriot program does exactly this. After basic cyber safety lessons, everyone from preschoolers to 12th graders in the program get to download and play games that actually train them to be safer and more secure on the net. Thousands of students have already benefited from the program, resulting in national competitions with the aforementioned gamified training sessions.
“We didn’t have enough people in the pipeline,” explains Shoemaker on how she was inspired to bring cybersecurity education to the youth. “And it was, how do we inspire folks to get into this pipeline and to be more educated about the diversity that is this workforce? That it’s not quite what everyone thinks. It’s not just coding, engineering and comp-sci. It’s a very diverse workforce.”
Invest in better physical security
In ensuring the security of your digital online classroom, don’t neglect the fact that some states have begun implementing hybrid online and in-person classes. This means that students in your area could be physically going back to school soon. EdTech Magazine’s feature on school security highlights how different schools have been investing in improvements like voice-enabled communication tools, cameras, and other devices to manage access and entry within school properties. In the pandemic age, these same improvements will be crucial to implementing social distancing measures as well as contact tracing protocols during in-person classes.
Having both a foot in the business and education side of things, operations managers for schools are well positioned to implement such improvements. As the career outlook for graduates of Maryville University’s online business administration degree details, today’s in-demand operations managers are the backbone of any organization, whether in the private or public sectors. In particular, operations managers trained through remote courses or degrees are already familiar with online class environments, making them well positioned to develop hybrid online and in-person security measures. Through the professional insight of an operations manager, a school can help improve their investments in cybersecurity from a more comprehensive and across-the-board vantage point, reducing gaps in overall school defenses.
In short, any investment, development, and implementation of cybersecurity hygiene protocols and best practices should be approached from the overarching perspective of a trained operations manager. For teachers, parents, and guardians, this presents a preview of the future’s hybrid remote working environment, which their children will eventually become a part of. More importantly, this also underscores how cybersecurity is becoming more and more of a comprehensive concern in high-risk environments such as classrooms and workplaces. And by implementing cybersecurity protocols across-the-board, you can ensure the protection of your students as well as your school’s networks.
Written by Dahlia Anderson for lessons4littleones.com