To keep children safe, there are some basic skills they need to learn at an early age. Before attempting to cross the road, look both ways. Fasten your seat belts. Avoid contact with strangers. It’s time to add another to the list: Beware of cybercriminals and hackers.
In this era of rapid technological advancement, cyber security is no longer a luxury, but a necessity. Children need to immerse themselves in technology at a young age to begin learning skills they will use throughout their lives. Of course, cyber-attacks are nothing new. What is less clear is the extent to which young people are increasingly being targeted. equipping them with the knowledge and skills to safely navigate the online world is essential. Cybersecurity education empowers children to protect their personal information, avoid online threats and make responsible digital decisions. It helps them become responsible digital citizens who can contribute positively to the digital society.
Today’s children and youth spend a significant amount of time online, whether for education or entertainment. The Internet provides several opportunities and at the same time brings several problems. Online predators exploit, deceive and hurt innocent victims through the Internet. In contrast, cyberbullying is the use of technology to harass, intimidate or embarrass people. These dangers can have long-term psychological consequences for young people and need to be addressed through education and open dialogue. even as more and more young people’s lives are recorded digitally, this may affect their privacy and safety in the long term. As a result, individuals are vulnerable to online harassment. Online predators and cyberbullying pose great emotional and physical threats to children and youth. Phishing and identity theft can lead to financial loss and reputational damage. Malware and ransomware can compromise their devices and personal data. By understanding these threats, children and youth can identify and protect themselves against them.
South Africa is one of the fastest growing countries in terms of cybercrime activities. Bulent Teksoz of Symantec Middle East quoted, “Cybercrime is moving towards developing economies. Cybercrime in South Africa goes uphill from here as the Africa Telecom Review reports that approximately 570 suspected cyber-attacks happen every second in South Africa. In a continent of 1.2 billion people, where hundreds of millions of citizens will go online in the next three years, the scale of the future risk of abuse is clear.
As technology advances, so do the opportunities and challenges it brings. South Africa is at a crossroads as it transitions from an internet society to the coming era of automation, big data and the Internet of Things (IoT). However, we are a civilization that is heavily dependent on technology. And as technology advances, so do the threats: the opportunities it provides make it the focus of cybercrime, industrial espionage and cyberattacks. As a result, the children and youth protection is utmost importance.
Yes, investing in innovative new technologies can help protect data integrity and address security threats, as can investing in technologies that can identify vulnerabilities in IT infrastructure before cybercriminals strike, but raising awareness of cyber security is critical to securing the future of the children and youth in the digital world. One way to harness and protect the digital world is to invest in youth talent, as the demand for cyber security way more than the resources that are available to fill the positions and we need young people to develop and sharpen their digital skills and help fight cybercrime.
In order for South African children and youth to be well prepared to navigate the digital world safely and confidently, cyber security education is essential. Setting limits and building trust for children’s Internet activities is a critical responsibility of parents and guardians. They should teach children about safe Internet habits, including creating safe passwords, being careful about sharing personal information, and being careful about the information they share or post online. Children’s online activities should be regularly monitored and reviewed to detect any potential risks or harmful behaviour.
By incorporating cyber security education into the curriculum, providing training to teachers and staff, and engaging students in interactive learning, schools should make this topic a high priority. The proactive approach in dealing with the cybersecurity challenges will help them better understand the dangers and learn how to stay safe online. Building resilience and responsible digital citizenship requires equipping SA’s children and youth with digital literacy skills. This means teaching children about accessing information, evaluating internet resources and responsible communication. Online privacy and learning critical thinking are also essential to cyber security knowledge. In order to prevent unsafe circumstances and promote a safer and more welcoming online environment, it is essential to encourage appropriate behaviour on social media.
The government can also play a vital role. They can create a climate that promotes cybersecurity and protects children online through various programs and regulations. Cyber security education programs should receive government support and funding. We can ensure that cyber security education is available to all children and young people by funding teacher training and providing resources to schools. In doing so, we give them the tools they need to become responsible online users and be better prepared to deal with any issues they may encounter.
Youth who are aware of cybercrime are more likely to be more careful with their personal information, which contributes to a safer online environment. By recognizing the potential impacts of cyber threats on critical infrastructure, governments and businesses can appreciate the severity of the problem and actively contribute to a more secure digital environment.
Promoting cyber safety literacy among children and youth helps to stimulate interest in a career in the ever-evolving field of cyber security as a potential career path, with safeguarding the online wellbeing of South African children and youth being of utmost importance. By raising cyber security awareness and imparting the necessary digital skills and knowledge, it can enable them to navigate the digital environment safely and responsibly. It is a collective effort involving parents, educators, government agencies and various stakeholders to promote a safe cyber environment. By investing in cyber security education, implementing effective policies and supporting joint initiatives, we can build a future where SA’s children and youth thrive in a digital world that prioritizes their safety and security.