Cybersecurity 101: Top Takeaways from Our Back to School Study

The end of summer is almost here, which means both parents and their kids are starting to gear up for the new school year. Of course, the first homework assignment and first day outfits are top of mind, however, these teens will be thinking about their devices too — what devices they can bring to class, what they’ll post about school events, etc. But will they be thinking about what they need to do to keep these devices secure? To see how students approach device use and security in the classroom, we conducted a survey, Cybersecurity 101: Teens in the Classroom, of more than 3,900 high school students (9th-12th grade) around the world. Here are a few of our key takeaways: 

Students Are Devoted to Their Devices

Between social media and smart devices, kids are staying connected now more than ever before. And it looks like the use of these connected devices in the classroom is here to stay. 86% of students spend at least one hour per day using an internet-connected device during school hours for school-specific work. Technology has just become an everyday part of the classroom experience for students, as more than half (57%) of students spend three or more hours per day using a connected device during school hours for school-specific work.

But, it’s important to note, this connected work isn’t always done with pure intentions, as almost half of students (47%) claim to have seen or heard of another student using a connected device in the classroom to cheat on an exam, quiz, project or other assignment – with only 21% admitting to doing it themselves. Students are also defying the rules when it comes to cybersecurity restrictions as well. When it comes to getting around cyber restrictions put in place by schools, 24% of the students have successfully accessed banned content. Beyond that, almost half (45%) of the students were able to access any (21%), or some (24%) social media sites on school-owned connected devices.

Education Goes Beyond Normal Curriculum

So, what exactly is being done to address this defiance? Fortunately, both administration and teachers are actively trying to employ policy as well as educate these kids on why cybersecurity is so important. 80% of students surveyed think that their school takes the necessary steps to ensure at least the school-owned devices they use are protected from cyberthreats. And most students (86%) feel up-to-date and informed about cybersecurity education/guidelines from their school before accessing school-owned connected devices.

Why Is Security Still Struggling?

So, given schools are providing this education, the question is – why do security gaps still exist? The study discovered that, as teens age, cybersecurity education becomes less of a priority for parents. 50% of parents of children 14 to 15-years old regularly talk about staying safe online, but this percentage dropped to 30% for older teenagers 16 to 18-years old. Shockingly, 14% of 16 to 18-year olds have never talked with their parents about how to stay safe online.

Therefore, as a parent, it’s crucial you begin making cybersecurity a priority for your teens. To do just that, follow these tips:

-Talk to your teens. The best way to ensure your teen is staying safe online is to talk to them. Ask them about what they do online and encourage safe behavior like avoiding interacting with individuals they don’t know in real life.

-Use the social networks that your kids are using. Not only will you gain a better understanding about what your kids do online, but you will also become a more trusted source because you will know the ins and outs of their favorite apps/networks.

-Protecting all your devices. Be sure to install comprehensive security software, like McAfee LiveSafe, across all of your family’s devices. Having security software is essential to protecting your family’s devices and privacy.

And for teens, it’s important to keep the following pointers in mind for when you’re using your connected devices next:

-Mind what you share. Personal information should be shared in moderation and only when necessary. Also, ensure that you are enabling privacy settings within social networks. Without privacy setting enabled your profile is open to everyone, which could increase the chances of being bullied or personal photos being downloaded and manipulated.

-Keep passwords private. Avoid sharing passwords with anyone other than parents or guardians. Once you share your password you no longer have control of your account.

As for schools themselves, we have a few additional tips on how you can continue to improve your cybersecurity education:

-Create student contracts in the classroom. The first step to creating guidelines for devices in class is to clearly spell out the terms of a ‘classroom device usage’ so there is no room for misunderstanding. Certain conditions such as staying on task and being considerate of others’ privacy must be upheld by students for devices to be used for in-classroom work.

-Keep parents updated and involved. Parents need education too. Schools should frequently update parents about how technology is used in the classroom setting. Not only does this promote understanding and support from parents but, equally importantly, it helps bridge the technology gap between parents and their kids.

And, of course, stay on top of the latest consumer and mobile security threats by following me and @McAfee_Home on Twitter, and ‘Like’ us on Facebook.

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