Humanity has entered and is embracing the digital age and it’s here to stay. If you have any doubts, have a look around. Almost everyone is focused on the digital device they’re holding whether that be a smartphone, tablet or whatever the latest technology advance is.
When it works well, there’s no doubt the digital world makes life easier and far more entertaining. Whether you’re managing finances, communicating with people, playing games or simply finding out about interesting stuff, it can all be done instantly at the touch of a button.
But it can go so badly wrong too. We’ve all heard the horror stories about digital scammers looting bank accounts or users being cyber-bullied or worse. And as the heaviest users of digital technology are young people, they’re the ones in the frontline and facing the most danger.
As well as bullying, the online world is packed full of potentially harmful influences and messages. For instance, there’s negative perception of body image, grooming or other inappropriate behaviour. Being constantly online also means ever greater exposure of personal data and information.
So, how do we teach young (and older) people about the dangers and help them to navigate their way safely through the digital age? It’s evident that young people are rebelling against all of the digital safety talks they have been put through at school and elsewhere.
Youth Fed are committed to support young people in keeping them safe within the digital world. We run the North West Cyber Programme, which includes a range of initiatives that focus on supporting young people developing an interest in cyber and digital careers. The programme brings youth groups and businesses together to ultimately keep young people and communities safe within the digital world.
Learning, research and development in recent years has progressed in the understanding of the processes behind the gathering of knowledge and experience. Learning is in fact collected in every experience we have. It then has to be applied and transferred for it to become embedded. It is only at this point that learning is developed into skills.
When examining effective learning, we have to consider how we learn. There is truth in the saying ‘show me and I will watch, tell me and I will listen, let me do and I will learn’. The latter is where experiential learning comes into play and we both learn and embed thinking.
It is also the grounds for transferal of learning to become skills. The challenge is to effectively provide experiential learning for the digital safety, digital resilience and career opportunity aspects of a young person’s education.
Here at the Youth Fed we’ve developed a hybrid approach to the arena of skill and pipeline development. The opening of a ‘live’ Security Operations Centre (SOC) has enabled us to develop focused learning on cyber security skills development. This has also allowed us to address digital safety issues and young people are learning a lot including the fact that over 20 million online attacks are happening each and every day.
They are able to dig deep into the threats within the SOC. This adds to their understanding of the issues and dangers. As an example, 100% of our young people leave the SOC and purchase laptop camera covers to stop remote access trojans from accessing their cameras without knowing.
This approach is also being used at the opposite end of the age range, this time with the over 60s and is proving just as effective. Experiential learning and skill development is a great way of encouraging us to think differently about digital resilience and skill development.
International research is suggesting that cyber-bullying is linked to depression, stress, anxiety and other psychological problems. A resilient person is far more likely to stay safe online and to benefit from all that the digital world has to offer rather than becoming a victim.
This will inevitably come from experience and education helping to recognise risk and know what to do if something bad happens. We believe that our methodology in the YouthFed is helping to address the very real dichotomy of how we effectively teach digital skills to create a pipeline of talent and also elevate the importance of digital resilience in the real world.
We all agree that avoiding the online world altogether is not an option in this day and age. Our hybrid approach to skill and pipeline development here at the YouthFed will make a contribution to keeping our young people safe online while making the most of the great opportunities presented by the digital age.
Since starting the programme, over 9,000 young people have benefited from the North West Cyber programme and Youth Fed have also started free training sessions on the importance of safeguarding children within the digital world. To find out more about Youth Fed or to book on to a programme near you, visit www.youthfed.org.uk.