Cyber safety education needs to start in ECEC, ECU researchers argue
The Sector > Quality > In The Field > Cyber safety education needs to start in ECEC, ECU researchers argue

Cyber safety education needs to start in ECEC, ECU researchers argue

by Freya Lucas

November 29, 2022

With cyber safety front of mind for many in the wake of the Optus and Medibank hacks, researchers from Edith Cowan University (ECU) are calling for children as young as five years of age to be taught cyber safety, given that more children than ever are using the internet, and they’re using it younger than ever before.


A new report led by ECU Associate Professor and Security Research Institute (SRI) Deputy Co-Director Dr Nicola Johnson has recommended additional consultation around cybersecurity curriculum needs to occur, with an emphasis on teaching children from a young age to protect themselves from common cybersecurity threats.


The Cyber Security Cooperative Research Centre 2022 report determined that Western Australian children might miss out on learning key cybersecurity skills in the current curriculum.


“Exactly what needs to be taught surrounding cybersecurity needs to be very clear within the curriculum. Teachers need professional learning to help them teach cybersecure behaviour effectively and confidently,” Dr Johnson said.


While primary students are taught about the dangers of using the internet and how to be safe online, the report pointed to the vagueness of what is to be covered in the new version of the Australian Curriculum.


“It is only in year 11 and 12 elective subjects that students are taught what are now fundamental aspects of cybersecurity; this is too late,” Dr Johnson explained.


In year 11, students completing Computer Science as a part of their WA ATAR are required to learn the role of ethical hacking in network security, penetration testing, encryption, and two-factor authentication.


“There is a strong case for this key knowledge as well as Australian privacy principles and laws to be explicitly taught at much younger ages, given how cyber criminals so quickly and creatively come up with new ways to scam our citizens.”


Australia is experiencing a critical shortfall in the cybersecurity workforce.Recognised by the Federal Government as the fastest growing employment sector with an estimated 17,000 new jobs by 2026, Dr Johnson says more intensive cyber security teaching could ease future shortages.


“By teaching content typically learned in senior secondary to younger children, we can reduce both future job shortages and the enormous cost of cyber crime,” Dr Johnson said.


The full report may be accessed here

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