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How We Can Keep the Next Generation of Digital Citizens Safe

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Wesley Simpson

COO, (ISC)2

Generation Alpha (made up of people born between 2010 and 2025) is also known as the Glass Generation since its population’s main medium of communication will be device screens. 

From an early age, even as young as toddlers, members of this generation are constantly connected with, learning from, and being entertained by tablets, smartphones, voice-controlled personal assistant services, virtual reality, intuitive search engines, and streaming services. Round-the-clock mobile connectivity and interaction with the cloud are daily routine activities that are second-nature to the next generation of digital citizens. 

5G networks and download speeds faster than a 40-yard dash have opened up new possibilities in terms of interconnection and access to information, making the world seem like a much smaller place. This broad access to information comes with a flipside, however. These groundbreaking technologies are now inextricably ingrained in almost every aspect of children’s lives, and we don’t yet know the long-term effects this will have, especially as it relates to privacy and cybersecurity.

Ramifications

As they get a little older and build social media profiles, they willingly share data about themselves with a wide net of individuals, creating accounts for gaming systems, mobile apps, video chat platforms, and even online retailers. Their anonymity will quickly erode as a result. They inherently trust technology because they’ve always had access to it, unlike previous generations who tend to be more wary of technology infringing upon their privacy. 

In order to enjoy the convenience of online connections, we must also be mindful of the profound cybersecurity risks involved and remain vigilant to protect our children. As the next digital generation begins to mature online, the threat of social engineering, which has become extremely customized and sophisticated, is heightened. Internet scammers prey upon the open borders we’ve created on the internet, and this can result in targeted phishing and ransomware attacks that use malicious code and extortion techniques to compromise their victims. 

Staying vigilant

Yes, it sounds scary, but it just means we need to reconcile the huge benefits of these technologies with the risk of privacy loss. Ideally, this means an increased focus on cybersecurity education and training that starts at an early age in primary schools, and continues through university programs. Many progressive schools have established such curriculums, but we need to keep pace with the changing nature of our digital world. 

Basic cybersecurity principles like strong encryption, password management, and data backup are valuable lessons students should be taught so we can arm them with the skills to protect themselves and their data online. 

While we need to demand that service providers and technology creators account for the most vulnerable among us, we also need to become personally accountable for our own security and not let vendors of the products we buy decide for us. 

Wesley Simpson, COO, (ISC)2, [email protected]

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