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#NICEK12: Digital Detox for Cyber Awareness

In addition to sessions on cryptography and teaching kids how to code, the 2018 NICE K12 Cybersecurity Education Conference also focused on teaching young people how to protect their identities and develop good cyber-hygiene habits to help them stay safe online. 

To that end, former private detective Melissa J. Straub, now founder and director of educational services at High Impact Youth Training Solutions Inc., said that teaching young people about cybersecurity is critical. "It only takes one picture, one video or one comment to take down a child’s reputation."

“Kids are on technology, kids are using technology and they have become so reliant on technology. That’s not to say technology is bad. It can help kids change, grow and innovate, but it can also hurt kids,” Straub said.

That’s why students of all ages need to have educators and parents engaging them in conversations about the consequences of their online behavior. An effective way to do that is to encourage students to go through a digital detox. 

“When we are learning how to drive a car, we take a test, we practice, then we earn a license. Yet we are handing kids the keys to the Wild West without any training on how to secure their information,” Straub said. 

According to Straub, more than half (54% ) of teens say life would be better without social media. Despite being touted as social networking, many social media sites have resulted in kids feeling more social isolation. As with most things in life, using technology should happen in moderation for young people. “There should be a balance of how much time kids are spending behind a screen, and if their behavior starts to change or their grades are changing, those are indicators of a problem,” Straub said. 

The most significant impacts technology is having on children is that they are engaging in or victims of cyber-bullying. Add to that the fact that they are only one click away from violence or sexual content, and it’s easy to see why kids need to learn good cyber-hygiene. 

Of equal concern to Straub is the threat of online predators. “It used to be you met someone in person, then found out the kind of person they are on social media. Now it is the other why around.”

When she talks with kids, though, they admit that they have computers in their rooms and their parents rarely – if ever – monitor what they are doing. Parents don’t know the apps kids are using, nor do they know the people their children are friends with online. 

In addition to teaching children that they don’t own their information and they do not control who sees it once it is online, Straub also warned, “Predators talk to kids in a gaming system and then pull them out into a private exchange,” which is why it’s important to engage kids in conversations about cybersecurity early and often and for parents to know what security and parental controls they should put in place. 

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