As we live in an increasingly digital world – for both our personal and professional lives – children are required to immerse themselves in technology from a much younger age. However, they aren’t really equipped to deal with the dangers that present themselves online, and cyber criminals take advantage of this. 

According to a 2019 study by Experian, one-in-four Americans will experience identity theft or fraud before they’re 18 and, in 2017, 1m children were targeted for identity theft.

Why do hackers target children?

There are several reasons why cybercriminals target children. Firstly, they have easy access to the internet: nearly half of children aged three to four in the US use the internet at home. Additionally, 90% of over-eight’s globally are active online according to a recent BCG survey, a situation that was accelerated by the pandemic which required children to spend more time on the internet. This is combined with minimal knowledge of the risks involved. For example, younger generations – specifically digital natives (aged between 18-41) – are more likely to be taken in by phishing attempts. 

How can education help?

Children are able to absorb information quickly from a young age. And, given how quickly they are able to learn how to use new technologies, they should be able to learn the risks involved with using them and how to protect themselves at the same time. The UK government has already created a programme – CyberFirst – that provides education and resources to teach children as young as 11 basic cybersecurity skills. 

And whilst cybersecurity can teach children how to protect their identities online, it should also focus on how to keep themselves safe from predators online too. According to the BCG survey, 72% of children have experienced one or more online threats, with 19% experiencing bullying or harassment and 17% facing unwanted sexual approaches. These are the sorts of experiences that can spill over into the real world, so teaching children how to tackle them is becoming increasingly important. 

In general, teaching children about cybersecurity, in the way that we do about seatbelt safety, for example, will help to embed good security practices in their online lives and, as they get older, in their professional lives. The more awareness there is about the dangers of new technology, then the harder it will be for malicious actors to take advantage in future. This will not only protect individuals, but also society more broadly.