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5 Convincing Reasons Teaching CyberEthics Is a Must in Today's Environment

Whether you’re a parent or a teacher, it has become increasingly necessary to teach today’s youth about cyberethics and what it involves. Teaching children about the ethics of using digital devices has become an integral part of what can make a happy family safer online in today’s environment.

According to The Guardian, 39% of children said they couldn’t live without their smartphone, with 53% of UK children owning one by the age of 7. By 11, 90% had their own smart devices as of January 2020, which should raise concern over the ethics of proper handling of such devices. It’s undeniable that we live in an interconnected world with a plethora of useful internet platforms for learning and peer collaboration.

However, the other side of the coin should also be taken into account – phishing scams, identity theft, and cyberbullying are part of grim reality. In order to minimize the risks of K-12 and younger students falling into cyber traps, cyberethics teaching should become the norm going forward into 2020. That said, what are some of the most convincing reasons to teach cyberethics, and what are the outcomes of doing so in today’s environment?

1. Increasingly Accessible Smart Devices

As we’ve mentioned, it has become increasingly more likely for children to receive their first smart device at an early age. Based on Leftronic, 60% of families provide children with a cellphone by the age of 10, with dads being more supportive of the decision than moms. Before we delve into doom and gloom, it’s vital to understand that cellphones are useful tools, especially for single children.

School may finish sooner than expected, or they might want to sleepover at a friends’ birthday party and get in touch with home quickly. The problem rears its head when we add social media platforms with unrestricted access to various types of content into the equation. Parents who take a proactive approach to issues and explain cyberethics of right and wrong uses of smart devices are doing the right thing. It’s inevitable that a young child will come across video ads or photos which don't correspond with their age – be proactive and explain cyberethics.

2. Address Cyber Myths & Common Threats

While some cyber threats fall squarely into prejudices, others are very real and pose a serious threat to young children. For example, phishing scams which aim to collect credit card or ID information from devices are real but can be avoided through careful device use. Banner ads which offer free games or coupons if a child clicks on them, however, almost always contain harmful malware.

These threats may seem arbitrary to an adult or a millennial that grew up as they became known to the public. However, young children have no prior experience with harmful content, which aims to steal their data or make their device defective. Take the time to explain these concepts to your student group or child, and they are very likely to become more careful in the future.

3. Explain the Context of Cyber Communication

Social media platforms and instant messaging apps are amazing tools which can help connect children with their peers across the globe. They also open the door for cyberbullying, identity theft, and other fraudulent behavior, which can harm the mental well-being of your child.

To avoid this, make it a habit to use these platforms with your child and explain to them the meaning of online textual communication. Emphasize that the words and statements they type and send to friends mean as much as real words spoken out loud. If they tell a friend a bad word, that word will sting and hurt their relationship as much as a real fight would. Children often lack the perspective to understand online communication, and teaching them about it is an integral part of cyberethics education.

4. Learning How to Stay Safe in Cyberspace

Ransomware, malware, Trojan viruses, and malicious software can be extremely easy to download onto a laptop or smart device. Based on 99 Firms, cyber-attacks happen 2,244 times per day, with 71% being financially motivated and 64% of Americans never checking if they were attacked. It’s essential that children know the difference between legitimate software and online content and that which can harm them.

Likewise, many online platforms request private information or access to smart device’s camera, phonebook, and other data unrelated to their functionality. In the case of K-12 students, parents should make it a habit to check on their children’s device, set parental controls, and help ensure their safety. While micromanagement of security parameters may seem counterintuitive in regards to parenting, this is the only way to secure a child’s smart device.

5. Copyright & Content Authorship Explanation

As children move closer to high school, they are bound to start posting their original content on the web. Platforms such as Tumblr are a perfect playground for children to stretch their creative muscles and develop new competencies. However, this opens the door for copyright, authorship, and ownership issues in case of fan art or republished content. Companies such as Disney and Nintendo are not very keen on letting others post their content under a different name.

To avoid legal issues and to help children understand the context of online ownership, you should encourage them to create original content instead. Start by introducing the concept of Creative Commons and how they can protect their original creations from copyright abuse. In addition to visual-based platforms like Canva, can help your child develop creative skills. Content created through these and similar services will be original and allow children to share, edit, and republish their creations as much as possible.

Benefits of Teaching CyberEthics in Today’s Environment

Now that we’ve discussed why you should teach your children and students about cyberethics let’s talk about the effects of doing so. Ethics is a difficult concept to communicate to K-12 students in general, let alone in the context of digital content. However, given their early exposure to online learning, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, such an approach has become a necessity. According to The World Economic Forum, over 1.2 billion children are out of the classroom across 186 countries affected by the social distancing norms.

Online classes, virtual learning via Zoom, or Skype, as well as homework sharing via messaging apps, is the new norm. As parents and teachers, our duty is to make the transition from traditional formal to new, cyber-oriented learning as comfortable as possible. Thus, some of the benefits of teaching cyberethics in 2020 include but are not limited to:

  • Early adoption of online safety precautions in regards to sharing information

  • Development of soft skills such as time management, organization, teamwork and problem-solving

  • Easier transition to higher education and/or professional development post-schooling

  • Ability to quickly find the right digital tool to solve an issue or make their work better

  • Development of personal ethics and moral values in regards to proper use of cyberspace

Future-Proof CyberEthics (Conclusion)

As parents and teachers, we may not be prepared for today’s environment as our children are in regards to cyberspace. More and more services are shifting to the digital space, and teaching young minds about cyberethics is more than essential at this point.

Not only will moral ethics about cyberspace help keep them safe, but they will also enable them to develop further competencies related to IT later. Help keep our children safe online and facilitate their personal growth for the world of tomorrow – that is the environment we live in today.

To get a jump start on teaching CyberEthics, please check out our free Digital Citizenship Course for Families and our free Professional Development Digital Citizenship Course for Educators!

About the Author:

Dorian Martinis an education writer and editor. His experience working in college paper writing services and content marketing agencies allows creating content and strategies for blogs of all sizes. Dorian also runs his personal blog, Not Business as Usual, where he shares his knowledge with budding marketers and business owners.


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