Wednesday, April 22, 2009

It takes more than a village to protect kids online

Every now and then I get to talk with college-age students about social media and all the stuff going with privacy, identity, and security on the Internet (most recently at Smith College, my Alma Mater.) More often than not, I find that they really don't know too much about how to protect themselves from fraud, let alone how to construct online identities that won't hurt their job chances. Yet, the assumption continues among lazy adults that "kids know it all" about the Internet....

Well, finally, the Government and tech giants have realized the inanity of believing "kids know it all" and have teamed up in an new program that will teach kids not just how to handle cyber bullies, but also how to deal with online frauds and scam artists.

Now, I'm not thrilled that this is coming out of the Department of Homeland Security, but, when I think about it, what goes on in our little machines on our desks or in our laps could impact the larger network of computers out there.

We're never really alone with our machines, if you think about it.

The program will be administered by the non-profit National Cyber Security Alliance, has a curriculum, and will send to the schools volunteers from companies such as EMC and Science Applications International Corp. Support will come from Symantec, Cisco, and Microsoft, to name a few of the companies involved.

Apparently, one of the motivators for starting the program was the results of a study done by the Pew Internet and American Life Project which found that only 3 percent of state school curriculums instructed students on proper use of social networks and chat rooms. Yet schools are often giving assignments that require Internet use.

I guess the assumption was that kids were getting taught *something* about the Internet at home. But think about it: how many of us have heard stories of parents who plop computers in kids' rooms, and then allow the kids to just close the bedroom door? How many of us have heard parents say how they want to "spy" on their kids' activities online, rather than find out how things work or what's going on in the greater world of life online?

So, I'd hazard a guess that there are indeed bigtime security reasons that may go beyond "identity theft" and "stalkers" that have become reasons for the government to create a program like this to teach kids the things they're not getting taught anywhere else.

Think about it.

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