Lessons from Cybersecurity Awareness Activities at Greek Schools

Insight and Experiences from Awareness Activities at Greek Schools

For those of you who know me, I am always championing cybersecurity awareness activities. I volunteer for the nonprofit privacy group in Greece, Homo Digitalis. Many of our activities focus on raising awareness of data protection for students and teens. This is achieved through visiting Greek schools throughout the country. Our educational programs – approved by the Greek Ministry of Education – focus on cyberbullying and personal data protection.

Fostering Responsible Digital Citizens

Reflecting on the numerous school visits and interactions with students of all ages, it becomes clear that cybersecurity awareness activities that educate children about issues like digital rights and cyberbullying are essential for fostering responsible digital citizens. The digital landscape is vast, and for many young people, navigating it safely is not an innate skill but one that needs to be taught and nurtured.

Here’s why cybersecurity awareness activities are crucial:

1. The Digital Footprint is Permanent

Many young people do not fully understand the permanence of their digital actions. Everything from a seemingly innocuous post on social media to sharing personal information can have long-lasting effects. Educating students about the implications of their digital footprint helps them to think twice before they post, share, or interact online.

2. Cyberbullying and Its Impact

Cyberbullying is a pervasive issue in today’s digital age. Unlike traditional bullying, it doesn’t end when the school day does. It can follow victims into their homes, affecting them through their digital devices at all hours. Awareness programs can equip students with the knowledge and tools to recognize cyberbullying, understand its impact, and know how to respond to or report such behavior effectively.

3. Privacy is a Fundamental Human Right

In an era where personal information is a commodity, understanding digital privacy is crucial. Educating them on privacy rights and safe online practices empowers them to make informed decisions about their digital presence.

4. Understanding Data Manipulation and Tracking

A significant yet often overlooked challenge is the lack of awareness among young people about how tech companies and social media platforms track, store, and manipulate their personal data. Many youngsters engage with these platforms daily, unaware of the sophisticated algorithms designed to capture their interests, habits, and even emotions to tailor advertisements and content. This manipulation infringes on their privacy and can shape their perceptions and behaviors in subtle yet profound ways. Educating students on these practices encourages critical thinking about the content they consume and the information they share online.

5. Nurturing Empathy and Respect Online

The anonymity of the internet can sometimes lead to a disconnect between online actions and their real-world impact. Students learn the importance of treating others online as they would in person by fostering an environment of empathy and respect. This understanding is crucial in preventing cyberbullying and creating a more positive digital community.

A Discussion, Not A Presentation

However, it is essential to note that our school visits are so much more than a presentation. The PowerPoint slides are often left untouched because kids guide the discussion through their insightful observations and questions.

“Children and teenagers are so interested in digital rights. Digital technology has played a significant part in their lives since birth. With the majority spend at least 3 hours per day online, it is impressive to see what they know, what they are interested in,” says Konstantinos Kakavoulis, cofounder of Homo Digitalis and a “teammate” in many of these activities.

Their questions transcend a vast spectrum of topics, from AI platforms to the use of surveillance cameras in public spaces to the ethics of technology and the fine line between privacy and public safety.

They also seek answers to tangible problems. You can see it in their eyes when they ask, “What can I do when I see bullying?” “How can I protect my personal data on Instagram?”. They are not looking for theories.

“They enjoy awareness-raising activities from which they can learn practical tips for their everyday online activity – not technical, not legal tips, just practical,” says Kakavoulis.

However, the most extraordinary experience is often after the “official” event ends. When I visited the Music School of Larissa, I stayed there for an extra hour, responding to various questions. One student was particularly interested in the EU AI Act, while another was asking about a career in cybersecurity.

“Seeing 20-30 children/teenagers staying with you for half an hour after the presentation has ended and constantly asking questions and wanting to learn more, means that particular focus should be given in adding relevant lectures to the school syllabus,” Konstantinos Kakavoulis concurs.

An Experience Like Nothing Else

Nothing beats the experience (and excitement) of talking to kids. Their enthusiasm becomes our excitement. Their agonies, our concerns for a safer future.

“Presenting at schools is probably the most enriching experience I have ever had. It is actually never a presentation – not even an interactive one. It is mostly about a constant discussion,” says Konstantinos Kakavoulis.

As digital technology continues to evolve, so will the associated challenges. By instilling a solid foundation of digital literacy and ethics, we’re not just protecting children today but preparing them to be thoughtful, informed, and responsible digital citizens in the future.

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Lessons from Cybersecurity Awareness Activities at Greek Schools
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