Australia may become one of the first countries to truly buckle down and prioritise teaching children about online safety.
Though kids today are digital natives, they aren’t necessarily taught about all of the dangers that lurk in cyberspace. From a young age, children come to understand that iPads and smartphones are great, that Instagram and TikTok are vital parts of their existence, but they aren’t necessarily told about unsafe apps, data privacy or that opening an email attachment from a stranger can ruin your computer. It just isn’t something that gets prioritised in early childhood education.
Well, despite the fact that a lot of countries have been talking about putting more cybersecurity in their curriculums, Australia may actually end up being one of the first ones to do it in a more organised fashion. The country is currently undergoing a revision and review process for its national curriculum, and the most recent draft includes a section that promises to teach children ages five to 16 about a variety of topics related to online safety, data, and privacy, reports local outlet The Register. That curriculum would take a steady, gradual approach to instruction, introducing different concepts at different ages.
For instance, when children first enter public schools at the age of five, they would be taught “not to share information such as date of birth or full names with strangers, and that they should consult parents or guardians before entering personal information online,” states The Register. Later, at the age of six, children would be instructed about how “to use usernames and passwords, and the pitfalls of clicking on pop-up links to competition.”
When they reach third or fourth grade, children will be given some serious lessons on data usage and privacy, with teachers educating them about “how to identify the personal data that may be stored by online services, and how that can reveal their location or identity. Teachers will also discuss “the use of nicknames and why these are important when playing online games,” the outlet reports. Media literacy skills, ostensibly to help children decipher the difference between factual information and misinformation, would also be in the mix.
It’s not totally clear whether any of this will ultimately make its way into the final version of Australia’s curriculum, though it seems pretty cool that the country is at least talking about this as a possibility.
Frankly, it seems pretty ridiculous that the U.S. isn’t doing something like this already. There has been ongoing talk about making cybersecurity and online safety a more central part of our education system, and given the explosion of online learning since the onset of the pandemic and the increasingly online nature of everyday life, adding this to the national curriculum makes perfect sense.