The new cybersecurity students

Published on the 06/05/2021 | Written by Heather Wright

Educating children_cybersecurity

Taking privacy and security to five year olds…

Today’s children might be digital natives in a digital world, but Australia’s new proposed curriculum is upping the ante.

If accepted in its current form, the revisions will see five-year-olds getting their first taste of cybersecurity education in their first year of schooling.

Proposed revisions to the Australian curriculum include privacy and security modules to a pared back curriculum – about 20 percent of the national curriculum is dropped under the proposed changes.

The proposal includes the addition of a new Digital Technologies sub-strand, ‘considering privacy and security’ which the Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority (Acara) says has been developed ‘to provide opportunities for this digital literacy content to be explicitly taught’.

Whether Australian children become more privacy and security aware digital natives, remains to be seen.

Let’s be clear though, the first taste of training is simply around not sharing personal information such as date of birth or full names and the need to consult parents and guardians before entering personal information online.

By the second year, they’ll be learning about the potential dangers of popups, online competitions and spam, reports say, and by the end of Year 4 they’ll be identifying what personal data is stored and shared in their online accounts and discussing any associated risks, including how it can reveal their location or identity.

Learning about digital footprints comes into play in Years 5-6, and by Years 9-10 they’ll be getting well versed in how data can be stored, secured, managed and controlled by hardware, software and encryption and evaluating cyber security threats and mitigations, using multifactor authentication and password managers.

The proposal also includes reference to educating children in the use of nicknames and why they’re important when playing online games.

Media literacy – helping decipher whether content is factual information or misinformation – is also included.

The proposed curriculum features an increased need for online safety skills throughout, providing clarity for teachers on where they can make ‘authentic links’ to the topic.

The proposal prompted criticism from Federal education minister Alan Tudge over the emphasis on teaching First Nations perspectives at the expense of ‘dishonouring’ western heritage.

Whether Australian children become more privacy and security aware digital natives, remains to be seen. The draft curriculum is open to public consultation until July, after which a final version will be developed. It then needs to be signed off by federal, state and territory education ministers.

Even if approved, a quirk of the system means state and territory governments don’t have to use the national curriculum.

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