Help Kids be Cyber-Savvy
By Susan Nunziata
When I was growing up in New York City in the 1970s, it wasn't exactly an idyllic, carefree time. (Anybody remember Son of Sam?) However, when I ponder the exponential risks that the Internet creates for kids growing up anywhere today, it stops me in my tracks.
Those of us who live-and-breathe tech are probably more attuned than most when it comes to imagining the dangers that lurk in cyberspace. Indeed, we're well aware of the security and privacy risks that can ride along with the coolest Facebook apps, we know the constant concern about identity theft and data loss, and we lose sleep over the many types of individual predators who can lurk anywhere online.
Yet, when it comes time to educate our children about the dangers online, we need all the help we can get. I'm told that kids these days practically emerge from the womb with a computing device in hand. There's certainly a big generational divide when it comes to engaging in a meaningful dialog about appropriate, safe online behavior.
That's why I was delighted when a longtime colleague, Ben Halpert, CISSP -- whose "day job" involves security for a major Fortune 500 enterprise -- told me he was launching a non-profit organization Savvy Cyber Kids. As part of his ongoing efforts to help caregivers educate kids about safe online practices, Ben authored the children's book Savvy Cyber-Kids at Home: The Family Gets a Computer, illustrated by Taylor Southerland.
The book was released in time to coincide with the seventh annual National Cyber Security Awareness Month (NCSAM). The Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA), and the Multi-State Information Sharing and Analysis Center (MS-ISAC) are the primary drivers of NCSAM. The groups chose October to mark the month in which they shine a light on what home users, schools, businesses and governments need to do in order to protect their computers, children, and data. Seminars, educational sessions and other events are being held around the country to raise awareness of online risks and best practices.
Savvy Cyber-Kids at Home is one of these admirable undertakings. Written in a rhyming style reminiscent of Dr. Seuss, the book takes a fun, gentle approach, introducing kids to the concept of protecting their identity online. (If you're like me, you probably know some adults who could benefit from reading this very basic information, too.)
I contacted Ben earlier this month, and asked him to elaborate on additional steps parents and other caregivers can take to protect kids online. Here are his top five tips:
- Children should learn about strangers in the virtual world, just as they learn about strangers in the physical world.
- Look for teachable moments with your children during daily routines.
- Create a positive technology interaction opportunity; do not use scary words.
- Share technology time with your children.
- Model a healthy relationship with technology.
I hope you'll take a moment to share Ben's insights with any colleagues, friends or family who are shepherding young children through this time of technological transformation.