Inspired to be a Cyber Champion
by Colin Powers, Young Professional, Nexor
I first heard about Cyber Champions soon after its launch at an Intellect Young Professionals' Network event, and I signed up on the spot: I knew I had to be a part of it. To my mind there can be few causes more rewarding for an information security professional than to teach the subject's most valuable lessons to the country's most valuable citizens.
I did my first Cyber Champions workshop soon after joining the scheme to a year 7 class at St. Marylebone C.E. School in London. I remember being worried that my presentation would not take up the whole hour. However, I quickly found that my nerves were misplaced: the students were so engaged in the questions and discussions that the real challenge was wrapping things up on time! I've been to many different schools up and down the country since then, but that high level of engagement has been consistent in every single one.
That experience confirmed what my instincts had already suggested: these lessons are important. The more children do online, the more they have to do to keep themselves safe. As part of our workshops, we ask the students what they do online and what their favourite websites are. The range of answers we get is huge, and sometimes surprising. At a later presentation to some year 5 students at Crossdale Drive Primary School in Keyworth, we had to borrow some material from our secondary school presentation when a number of students said they were already on Facebook.
What makes Cyber Champions so fulfilling for me is that when you ask questions like "who is on Facebook", and then ask "who is 100% sure how many people can see their profile", there is always a significant difference. Some of the children will be more tech-savvy than others, and they'll already know their stuff when it comes to online safety. Others will simply be on websites like Facebook because it's fun and convenient, but they won't have realised or thought about who might be able to see what they post. And that's why Cyber Champions works. Once we help children realise who can see what they post online, how they can control that and what the consequences might be if they don't, they start to think before they post. And they go away from the presentation with an idea of who in their class they might want to ask if they need any help locking down their accounts!
I'm extremely proud to be involved in Cyber Champions. To those who, like me, have witnessed firsthand the rise of social networking and the disasters that can occur when things go wrong, I say simply this: get involved. I've seen many people my age struggling with privacy online, and I'm sure you have to. For the first time, children are now growing up with all these services, and they are starting at younger ages every day. This is a massively important message, and a massively important scheme. If you can help, then do. It's a phenomenally fulfilling experience, it's fun, and it'll even help you build up your soft skills. It's been almost a year since I joined, and I've never regretted it for a second.