Teaching internet security awareness

Radio National’s Science Show had a segment on incompetent confidence: The Dunning-Kruger effect http://www.abc.net.au/rn/scienceshow/stories/2010/2893602.htm

I’m throwing this reference around because I’ve seen this effect in many situations. ]
In relation to security, it went like this:
people who would never give their age, name, and work details to a stranger, and are confident that they know about internet security, were included in a mobile phone film uploaded to youtube, with sound giving their first names, and images giving the workplace and obvious age cues. Most have facebook pages with current photos and real age details.

So, I thought:

For a program of primary school discussion: “Questions without clear right/wrong answers.”

Ground rules: Standard class discussion rules, plus: only hypothetical cases.

Approach: Emphasise the various active listening techniques (e.g. per http://crs.uvm.edu/gopher/nerl/personal/comm/e.html ) and encourage application of knowledge, analysis, synthesis, and evaluative thought (per Bloom’s cognitive taxonomy. [This University of South Florida image describes it well, but I am doubtful of the formal educational levels they ascribe to the levels. The Taxonomy’s details are often debated. ])

You know why you don’t give those details to a stranger or in a chatroom. What are the good and bad aspects of posting them on YouTube and Facebook ? When does basic interest in privacy become paranoia? Given increasing use of face/image recognition by powerful corporations, what are the arguments for and against posting pictures with deliberate false ID tags of individuals? When should you ask people for permission before you post photos of them on the web, even without identifiers – what would you like your friends to do? What if they had different preferences for their information? Does increased public listing of your ID (on your sites and other people’s sites) make identity theft more or less difficult? If you post your location onTwitter, people can tell where you are (and aren’t). What are some good and bad things from that? If a thing is both good and bad at different times or to different people, is it good or bad? What sort of things can you do if something on the net makes you feel uneasy? A student went to meet someone ve’d met online. It was an on-line teacher from the Education Department, ver parents dropped ver off, and the class were to spend the day at a cultural centre. At what point does it become unwise to meet someone in person?

I think that the action of discussing these questions of security would have three effects.

Firstly: properly guided, it would increase their capacity to accept uncertainty and individual differences at an age when one of the cognitive developmental tasks is learning to abandon the absolutist approach of childhood. (Although some theorists hold that the formal operations stage in the Piagetian sense has an absolutist right/wrong approach, and this approach uses post-formal operations understandings (a detailed discussion here: http://www.piaget.org/GE/2001/GE-29-3.html), my experience shows that the testing of possibilities without prejudgement, the acceptance of individual differences, and the integration of contradiction and possibilities into a context-based world understanding can be well begun by age 11.)

Secondly, it would make explicit the need for the individual to weigh benefits against risks (both of which change with changing technology) in choosing to release ver private information. This would include raising the possibility of talking about decisions with friends and elders, to get someone else’s ideas of risks and benefits.

Thirdly, it would help some of them question their assumptions of high competence in a less confrontational manner than having a teacher pointing at individual activities in a computer access period.


One Response to “Teaching internet security awareness”

  1. Mark Pegrum Says:

    Those are the right kinds of questions to be asking. There are also plenty of example scenarios you could draw on among the digital safety materials at http://e-language.wikispaces.com/digital-safety.

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