National Cybersecurity Awareness Month: Creating Opportunities to Teach Online Safety

October 2, 2018

Takeaways

The proportion of teens who use social media multiple times a day has doubled over the past six years.
It is imperative that teens understand the full landscape of digital citizenship.

National Cybersecurity Awareness Month (NCSAM) - observed every October - was created to raise awareness about the importance of cybersecurity. The 2018 NCSAM overarching theme, “Our Shared Responsibility,” centers around the idea that we must work together to improve our nation’s cybersecurity and create opportunities for changing behaviors online among consumers, students, and business. 

While the official NCSAM theme changes each year, one thing remains constant: the importance of strong cybersecurity and digital citizenship skills among youth.

The proportion of teens who use social media multiple times a day has doubled over the past six years: in 2012, 34% of teens used social media more than once a day; today, 70% report using it more than once a day. The increasing frequency of social media use may be fueled by the increase in access to mobile devices, with 89% of teens now reporting having a cell phone.

With the dramatic increase in youth social media use, it is imperative that teens understand the full landscape of digital citizenship. This includes digital footprints, security, privacy, cyberbullying, and digital time management.

However, the most comprehensive and up-to-date digital citizenship education does not always occur at home. While 80% of 8th graders report using a computer for school on a weekday, only 33% of parents say they can properly explain digital dangers because they do not understand the risks themselves. 

Indeed, many adults assume that because children have been immersed in technology since a young age, they are naturally skilled in using technology. However, while students may approach their digital lives with a discerning eye, they sometimes fail to know how to act responsibly as digital citizens.

For example, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation STEM Scholars program pre-course survey data shows that most (85%) students say it is their responsibility to protect their privacy online, but fewer (36%) report reading online privacy statements.  

After completing the the program, students were able to determine short and long-term personal effects of digital decisions, as well as the human, legal, and social implications of digital citizenship. This includes using digital tools to appropriately, responsibly conduct online research and explore the benefits of helping peers avoid negative online behavior. 

Like traditional literacy, children and adults alike benefit from guidance, instruction, and practice. This effort starts in the classroom, by providing students with real-world digital citizenship simulations that allow them to apply lessons as they learn.

To learn more about the impact of the STEM Scholars program, read this year's final impact report.